There used to be a Renaissance Festival just outside of Toronto that ran for a few weekends each summer. My friend Kerry and I went to it every year. It was quite well done. The grounds were extensive, in a pleasant forest alongside a field used for a jousting tournament and hawking demonstrations. Costumed performers roamed the grounds in character. There was lots of yummy food and drink. Vendors sold medieval-themed wares in a village of permanent buildings, rather than the kind of tent city that often pops up at this kind of event.
Actually, on a slight tangent, one of the vendor buildings had been constructed using lumber from the barn next to the high school Kerry and I attended. We’d often gazed at it in boredom during French class – when we weren’t disruptively giggling together, that is. Turns out, it was torn down after we graduated. That the lumber had made its way from the little town where we went to school, to a RennFest outside Canada’s largest city, only for us to then cross paths with it, struck Kerry and I both as delightfully random.
Anyway, the RennFest became such a central part of our friendship that even after I moved to Nova Scotia, I’d make an annual trek back to Ontario to continue our tradition of theeing and thouing in costumes that got more elaborate each year. We’d get a weekend pass, be there from open to close, go to every show, check out every vendor’s wares, and just generally have an awesome time.
Like any outdoor event, there was a level of weather dependency to the RennFest, and while we mostly enjoyed beautiful sunny days there, it did rain once. Considering how far I’d come, there was no way we were staying home. But we were a little disappointed it was too chilly to wear our costumes.
There were fewer attendees, of course, as people stayed home to avoid the rain. And the pace was slower. Some of the shows were cancelled, so there was less of a, “We need to be there at this time,” vibe. It was the first time we went to one of the open-air taverns and just sat and had a mug of wine.
At the tavern, we were seated at a table next to a family of several children with their mother and grandmother. A lot of the RennFest performers were there as well, and at one point, another came in to join them. When he noticed the family, however, he changed direction, joined them at their table, and proceeded to spin them a tale.
In the story he told, a man is granted one wish by a genie. Being poor, the man wants to wish for money. Because they have no children, his wife wants him to wish for a large family. Because his mother is going blind, she wants him to wish for her eyesight to return so she won’t become a burden. Ultimately, the man wishes his mother could see his children eating off of gold plates. It took him a good twenty minutes to tell, with all the embellishments of a great storyteller, and the entire family was rapt – as were Kerry and I at the next table over.
While the man told his tale, the Queen walked by, on a processional through the village. It being wet and muddy, a couple of loyal Fools lay across a puddle in her path, and she walked on them to keep her feet dry.
The Fools then made their way to the tavern, clearly planning to join the other performers at their table. But then one of them noticed the family at the table next to us, and he walked that way, shirt soaking wet and arms held wide, looking for hugs. The kids squealed and giggled and refused, and he walked away hugless.
Until, that is, he saw Kerry and I laughing. He held out his arms again, put on a puppy-dog face, and asked, “Hugs?”
I’m a hugger, so I leapt to my feet and threw myself into his arms. And suddenly I was being spun around in a circle while the performer hooped and hollered in my ear. After a few spins we stopped – just long enough for him to turn me around so his partner could hug me from the other side in a Donna sandwich. Around and around we went again, the entire tavern cheering us on.
When I finally staggered back to our table, Kerry was laughing so hard she was crying. I’m forever grateful she’d thought to grab my camera and snap a photo.
It just goes to show – you should never let a little rain ruin a good time.