This last weekend (7-8 March 1998), a hoarde from Massachussetts (twelve of us!) invaded the Arizona Renaissance Festival. This included all four of the "Royale Madrigals" and eight other die-hard Rennies. Thanks to the faire management, and to her Majesty Margaret, Queen of France, we were given guest performer's passes, granting us free admission and permission to perform.
Arizona is a marvelous faire. It's big; the grounds are about 3-4 times the size of KRF (King Richard's Faire in Carver, Massachusetts, our home faire). The "look" of the faire was much like the North Carolina faire (which we visited in November), but a little bigger space, a lot bigger attendance. The grounds and shops at both faires are in top-notch condition, presenting a very pleasing view to the eye of the patrons (are you listening, KRF?). The similarities are mostly due to the fact that both AZ and NC are operated by Jeff Siegel. Every Siegel faire I've ever attended has been outstanding!
A few practical notes for those intending to visit: bring sunscreen; the Arizona sun is every bit as intense as it is reputed to be. A broad-brimmed hat is a very valuable commodity. Drink plenty of fluids; with the bone-dry desert air, you won't realize how dehydrated you're getting. Beware of chapped lips. Wear comfortable footwear, the faire site is big. Get to the "Ded Bob" show way early--seats are at a premium!
I have never seen more merchants at any ren faire, and the overall quality of the available goods was splendid. If you like to shop at ren faires (and I do!), the Arizona faire will be a real treat.
Entertainment was top-notch. All of you who told me that Ded Bob was a "must see" were "ded" right. I also recommend Smee & Blogg (the singing executioners), the Tortuga Twins, and Don Juan & Miguel. And don't miss WenchWork! It was so nice to see them again, since they did not return to KRF this last season (boo-hoo!).
As in North Carolina, Arizona has musicians all over the place. This provides a wonderful ambiance, and the patrons can sit and listen, or simply enjoy the music as background. I think Arizona did this better than NC; in NC the musicians were too much in the background, but in Arizona they generally had respectable audiences even when doing street work (in large part simply a result of the much higher attendance at Arizona). It was a joy to find the Puckerbrush Players (hammered dulcimers), whom I had also seen at NC. Personal thanks to Loca Rosa for your music and your generous hospitality! I shall wear your pin proudly. A wonderful surprise for me personally, was to find the Music Box (whom I had also seen at NC). You have to see her to believe how enchanting she is; be prepared to be enthralled.
There is a superior madrigal group there, "Canterbury Transfer." Most excellent! They do two kinds of show; a music show (like we do), and a show designed to mix comedy with music. The choreography and gags accompanying the comedy-music show had me rolling in the aisles! If you go to Arizona, be sure to catch both their shows; you'll be glad you did. And I must express my sincere gratitude and admiration to their director (help! I'm so bad with names!), who also runs the pub sing. She really made us feel welcome, and invited us to sing at the pub sing both days as well as at closing gate Saturday.
One of the things I liked best about Arizona was the "Mayor's Pavillion." It's very near the front gate, so the first thing most patrons see when they enter the faire is the pavillion, with magnificently garbed town officials and a feast fit for a king. I think it's a great way to get the patrons "in the mood" for a ren-faire. We were welcomed most graciously, invited to share their feast, and asked to perform (we love it!). It was also a great place to relax, and take a load off your feet. Best of all was the sincere hospitality of the mayor, his wife, the tax collector, the sherrif, and more.
I must compliment faire management for having a battalion of first-aid personnel, in very recognizable garb, all with hand-held radios, easy to spot and easy to find. First aid services were the best I've seen at any faire!
I (also) want to thank a number of people:
Dan -- Thanks thanks thanks! Enjoy Mexico!
Kate, aka Margaret, Queen of France--as usual, your company is beyond compare, and you put your shop at our disposal as a "home base" while at the faire. And of course, having guest performer's passes waiting when we arrived made all our lives happier. (Note to garb freaks: Kate and Fluffy make the best costumes I have ever seen. Bar none. Shop!).
Fluffy -- you not only opened your shop and your van to us, you made us feel at ease and had fun. With twelve of us, it was no mean feat!
Director of Canterbury Transfer (god I'm so bad with names)--your hospitality went beyond professional courtesy, to a genuine warm-hearted welcome. It made us (madrigals) feel so much more at ease, to know that we were welcome by the local singers. And keep up the great work! (I don't suppose you could send us a spare alto?)
The mayor, and all others in the mayor's pavillion--your welcome was so complete and so sincere, it set the tone for our entire weekend. Thanks for enjoying "my" madrigal!
Loca Rosa -- shalom. Thanks for the music, the smiles, and the enlightenment.
My bottom line: the Arizona faire is truly terrific, well worth travelling 2,000 miles to see!
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Disclaimer: This page is an Unofficial report on the Arizona Renaissance Festival held near Apache Junction, Arizona, every year since 1989. All opinions expressed are strictly the author's own. This report, which was originally posted to the Newsgroup alt.fairs.renaissance (AFR), has been edited somewhat for this presentation here. To read the entire unedited version, please go to www.dejanews.com and search for "AZ Review" under alt.fairs renaissance.