True confession: When I was in my early 20s, I spent two summers at what was then called Scarborough Faire – it’s now the Scarborough Renaissance Festival – as a “kissing wench.” Which is just what it sounds like: I got 25 cents (minimum) for a smooch on the cheek of anyone who wanted one. I frequently made more for a full-on kiss (no French-kissing, though – I had my standards) and sometimes went home with more than $200 for a day’s work. Pretty good for 1981-82. Interesting note: I usually got more money, sometimes $10 or even $20, if the guy in question had a girlfriend or wife watching. Go figure.
Sadly, Scarborough has dispensed with the kissing wenches. You will, however, find plenty of wenches of other sorts at the fest, along with enough fun to keep you busy for several days. I always say I’ll go for one day each spring, and I almost always go back two or three times. You’ll feel transported back to the 16th century, with a 35-acre “village” and a total site of 167 acres. Just be sure to take sunscreen, wear a hat and prepare to be accosted by a wench or two (or prepare to bow to King Henry VIII or his sister Queen Margaret of Scotland and the Isles). Also: They may be from the “Renaissance” in theory, but the Scarborough folks are true Texans: Dr Pepper is the fest’s official beverage.
Here are my Top 5 very personally curated things to do. Check the schedule; if none of these appeal, you’ll find hundreds of other activities.
Entertainment: I’m particularly fond of the birds-of-prey demos, juggling, jousting, sword-fighting, Scottish bagpipers and belly dancers, but you’ll find 21 stages with more than 200 performances daily. There’s also a human chess match on a giant board on the ground, Renaissance rides, games of skill and plenty of activities, storytelling and more for the kiddos. And oh … the turtle races. Not to be missed!
Turkey legs and other yummy stuff: More than 20 tons of giant turkey legs are consumed each year, and I probably eat at least a pound or two of them myself. You’ll also find Scotch eggs, what’s billed as the “largest food-on-a-stick selection in Texas,” pasta, Renaissance-era goodies, fruit and salads. Wine and beer tastings for those 21 and over occur daily ($25-$30 in addition to regular admission, souvenir wine glass or pint glass included; advance online purchase suggested).
Shopping! Now they’re speaking my language. More than 200 craft shops feature items handmade by folks from around the country. Take your credit card, trust me. You’ll find jewelry, clothes, metal work, pottery, leather goods, toys, candles, musical instruments and much, much more.
Artisan demos: Check out craftsmen and women demonstrating ancient crafts such as glass blowing, blacksmithing, candle-making, printing on a Gutenberg press, pottery, broom-making, armor-tooling, incense-making, bookbinding, basket-weaving and coin-minting (potential counterfeiters will be run through by knights wielding swords).
Weddings: If you’re lucky, you’ll attend on a day when there’s a Royal Renaissance Wedding; the fest hosts an average of 20 a year. Peek into the Wedding Garden at the marvelous costumes and decorations, and you might just get a proposal from your honey on the spot.
Through May 25, Saturdays, Sundays and Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 2511 FM66 (off Interstate 35E at Exit 399A), Waxahachie. $25 for adults, $10 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. See website for full schedule of each day’s activities. 972-938-3247. srfestival.com.