We are well into the local fair season with the Maryland State Fair already behind us and the Anne Arundel County Fair starting today and continuing through the weekend. Also, the Maryland Renaissance Festival has been underway for several weeks with several more to go before it closes up shop. These are all terrific family events that appeal to a wide range of ages and showcase tons of local hobbyists and craftsmen.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival is the second largest of its kind in the United States, and has a national reputation as one of the best in the country. I don't know who has the number one spot (Texas and Minnesota both make big claims), but if you've never been, you will be amazed at the size and scope of this operation. It's the size of a small Renaissance village, a full 25 acres, and there is no end to the shopping, food, and entertainment. It runs weekends from the end of August through the middle of October, so you'll have ample opportunity to visit.
I first attended the Renaissance Festival when I was just out of college, working my first real job, and dating my future husband. Us 20-somethings would go for the day and frankly spend a big part of it camped out at the onsite pubs. This was in the late 80s/early 90s, and even then, it was a pretty good sized festival, and a really good time. Many of the acts have returned year after year. We always make a point to see Johnny Fox, the sword swallower, juggler, magician and seasoned showman, in his cute little leather shorts (don't worry, he wears tights underneath...).
|Cool Renfest Facepaint, |
Bad 80s hair and jewelry...
Over the years, Johnny has grayed, as have we, and the focus has shifted for us from the pubs to the kid and family-friendly activities (we still enjoy a beer or two and the oyster shooters at Middleton's). The jousting is always entertaining, and there are games, shows, and activities for kids of all ages. I could honestly spend the whole day just people watching. It's a riot to see all the folks in costume - everything from Renaissance finery and peasantry to a spattering of Conan the Barbarian and Fairytopia. Some of these are VERY elaborate, and many Renaissance Fair groupies take the whole atmosphere to the extreme. Several weddings are even hosted at the fair each year.
My daughter's birthday falls in October, and last year I took a group of her 12-year old friends to the Festival for the afternoon to celebrate. They painted their faces and dressed up in a variety of costumes here at the house before we left. Once there, I tailed along behind and let them make their way around the place. Despite weather that was not ideal, they had a wonderful time browsing the shops and entertainment. We may have to make it an annual birthday outing.
As for the Anne Arundel County Fair, I haven't been since my kids were in pre-school, but it also is a great chance to get outside with the family and check out what our local farmers and craftsmen are producing. In addition, there are hayrides, tractor pulls, tug of wars, pie and watermelon eating contests, local bands, and carnival games and rides. All the standard county fair hoopla.
I've been meaning to get back there, but it always sneaks up on me. It was a regular fall outing in the preschool years. One year we went, it was the week after the September 11th attacks. We tried our best to put on a brave face and enjoy an all-American outing, but it was almost too tall an order for a shaken group of parents and teachers. The following year was much easier to enjoy. The kids had a blast.
Both of these fairs are great options for this weekend, but since you have more chances at the Renaissance Festival in weeks to come, you might want to take the opportunity to hit the County Fair. Again, it starts today and runs through Sunday at the County Fairgrounds in Crownsville. Admission is free for certain times of day, and cheap for the rest. You can find hours and a schedule of events at:
Anne Arundel County Fair
The Renaissance Festival is not quite as cheap, but well worth the price of admission. It is open weekends through October 24th, rain or shine, also in Crownsville. If you want to dress up but don't have a costume, you can rent one inside the gates or buy them at several of the shops. All you need is a Robin Hood cap or flower garland to get in the spirit. (I know Robin Hood is not a Renaissance character, but again, pretty much anything goes!) Details can be found at:
Maryland Renaissance Festival