That time I… dressed up for Ren-Fest

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Nicole is a junior English major with minors in Writing and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She is the editor-in-chief of NSU’s literary magazine, “Digressions,” as well as copy editor at The Current and Writing Fellow at the CAHSS Writing Center. She hopes to pursue a career in publishing or editing.

Have you ever watched a medieval film or television show, looked at the intricate costumes and thought, “Man, wearing those looks like fun?” Maybe you haven’t; maybe you think that corsets look uncomfortable and difficult to move in, or that armor looks way too heavy to wear into battle.

I, however, have always been fascinated by the concept of costumes and traveling back in time, so to speak. I realized how much I enjoyed it two years ago when I first attended the Renaissance Festival in Quiet Waters Park.

Quiet Waters Park holds the Ren-Fest every year, usually from early February to late March. After years of watching the Ren-Fest come and go, I finally made up my mind to attend. I wasn’t just going to show up, however.

“Go big or go home,” I thought to myself, and so I created a costume from odd pieces of clothing I had buried in my closet. After Googling a few images and drumming up some inspiration, I emerged from my house in a pale blue frock and makeshift petticoat, a deep blue hooded cloak and fake meadow flowers in my curly hair. I was a fair maiden, complete with a basket of flowers that doubled as a purse and a fake dagger fastened at my hip. My boyfriend, being the great sport that he is, dressed as a knight, or a Robin Hood lookalike.

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Upon arrival, we immediately felt the warm atmosphere – both in terms of the humid weather and the comradery among the festival-goers. We were complimented on our last minute costumes and our fake weaponry; meanwhile, the truly dedicated attendees were dressed in full garb. There were knights in clanging metal armor, fairies with majestic fluttering wings, voluptuous bar wenches in revealing corsets and even a royal court dressed in full ball gowns, hoop skirts and all.

The festival opened at 10 a.m., and we could have stayed there until it closed at sundown; there was so much to do. Different shows played around the park throughout the day, and the performers never broke character. We watched pirates sword fight on a precariously high ship, as well as some shirtless men reenact the story of Rapunzel while covered in mud and talented musicians play classic rock songs with instruments of the Renaissance period.

The vendors sold everything from wispy fairy wings to elven jewelry to authentic armor and leatherwork, worth hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars. The amount of craftsmanship in every booth was astounding. The food, as well, was a work of art. The giant turkey legs were both delicious and convenient to carry around while browsing. I got my first henna tattoo at the festival, to show my undying love for J.R.R. Tolkien, and took fun theme photos that made me feel truly medieval.

More than anything, I found a safe space to get creative, support artistry and have fun. No one was shamed for wearing clothing that was too revealing or having a certain body type, nor was anyone shamed for dressing up in period clothing and saying things like “huzzah” and “prithee.” In fact, the festival was a celebration of these things and promoted talent, merriment and the ability to stay in character the entire day.

Caption:

For their first visit to the Ren-Fest, Chavannes and her boyfriend dressed as a fair maiden and makeshift Robin Hood.

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