For more than 15 years, I've gone to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival on and off; mostly on. And today, a few of us are heading there for a day of food and fun.
My first trip to the Ren Fest was a bit memorable. It was 1996 and I was attending the University of Wisconsin, Superior. A couple of my friends wanted to go. They knew another couple from Florida, who were coming for a visit and wanted to go to the festival as well. My friend Andrea made arrangements to stay with another friend of hers (someone she met from an online message board or somesuch) in St. Cloud and we'd all go to the Renaissance Festival the next day.
Along the way, we all stopped in Hinckley. They all got food from the gas station while I got a double cheeseburger from the Hardee's. We got to Andrea's friend's house a little while later.
The friend, Ben, made burritos for dinner. I wasn't feeling that well before dinner, but I managed to eat a few bites of the burrito. Later that night, they all were getting ready to play a round of Dungeons and Dragons while I was reading a book. All of a sudden I got really nauseous. While Andrea was taking her turn, I was sprinting to the bathroom. She was convinced that I got sick from the Hardee's food as none of them had eaten there and they were fine. Here I was looking forward to having fun and I felt miserable. I spent a few more times in the bathroom that night. And I just met these folks that night.
But they were OK about everything, which included washing my hair in the wee hours of the morning. Despite getting little sleep, I was OK the following morning; I just had a shaky stomach.
So we all piled in the car to follow Ben from St. Cloud to Shakopee. After a couple of hours, I wondered if we were on the right track. It seemed like an awful long time to get to where we were going. And this was before any of us had some form of cell phone so we couldn't communicate to Ben as easily. Before we knew it, we were Inver Grove Heights. Just a bit too far off course. We got Ben to stop and we reconfigured our route toward Shakopee. We eventually found the festival, parked and went on to have a good time. The only thing I really ate that day was deep-fried chicken on a stick.
Throughout the years I've gone to the Renaissance Festival with a host of other friends. One time was kind of a waste as the particular friends I went with just weren't into the festival on that day. Plus it was rainy. Another time, my friend Michele and I ran into a couple of mutual friends from Duluth (we didn't know that the others were going). I've gone to the festival with my mom and brother. My mom even enjoyed seeing Johnny Phoenix, one of the acts that involves firewalking and raunchy humor and the like.
So in the last few years, it's been fun going to the festival with Ross. There have been some standbys that we've gone to see, like an Irish music band called the Dregs (we first saw them at the Renaissance Festival in Sioux Falls) and the Tortuga Twins. Last year we finally listened to a tale from Zilch the Torysteller, who tells famous stories with a twist (one of his CDs is called Tairy Fales if that tells you anything). Every year I think Ross and I have stumbled upon something new (to us anyway) that we haven't seen at the Ren Fest. One year it was a little "fairy walk" through the woods. Another year it was an act called Villification Tennis, where actors in garb hurl bawdy insults at each other for points.
While at the Renaissance Festival, Ross usually indulges in one of those turkey legs (I still fail to see the excitement of having one). And I tend to get the latest Minnesota Renaissance Festival T-shirt. I have quite a few T-shirts, but I regret donating my inaugural 1996 T-shirt to the Goodwill some years ago.
But I still have the slight memories of that fateful day when I finally discovered one of the most interesting places to people watch.