This event has been on my radar since we lived here in 2008, but we’ve never made it. It runs every weekend from the last week of August through the last week of October. This three-day weekend, I was feeling a bit stressed about bidding and life in general and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to get away for a while…but not have to worry about elaborate travel plans.
So I booked us into an average hotel off the highway in Annapolis for two nights and bought two tickets to Ren Fest. We weren’t in a hurry, so I took my son to his usual taekwondo class on Saturday morning, dropped the dog off at boarding, and took a leisurely drive up to Annapolis. So far, so good!
I picked the hotel because it was close to the festival location and because they had two separate beds in the room. For some reason, all the other hotels I found assumed everyone sharing a hotel room wants to also share a bed. I don’t sleep when kicked. So it was a little more than I was planning on spending, but I was even less thrilled when I saw the condition of the place.
It was really run down, with spider webs in the pool furniture and broken screens with glass shards on the exercise equipment in the gym. Apparently it’s usually a fairly cheap hotel, but they had literally tripled the price of our first night. I assume it was due to the fact that it was Columbus Day weekend; there was a Navy college football game going on downtown (they pounded Tulsa 45-17, by the way); and there was also a sailboat show. I wasn’t happy about paying so much, but the staff was nice, and they were very responsive when I called to complain about our loud partying neighbors at 11:30pm.
And the pool and the hot tub were functional, so A and I had a nice relaxing dip and then went to Macaroni Grill for dinner. I figured he would enjoy drawing on the paper table cloth, and he did! The food was pretty bad though…seriously overcooked shrimp scampi. I had worked at a Macaroni Grill for six long months back in my 20s and mentioned it to our waiter. He wasn’t particularly interested and didn’t even make eye contact until he brought me the bill at the end.
Anyway, another reason that we hadn’t been to Ren Fest yet was that I’d seen pictures of how insanely crowded it gets. I had been told to arrive as early as possible to avoid the crush of people, which is also why we came up the night before. The park opened at 10am, so we arrived a few minutes early, found a nice place to park, and waded into the sea of people ready to go in.
The place was pretty good sized, and it is really well done. It’s modeled after a 16th-century English village and covers over 27 acres. Each year, the festival has a theme. According to their website, this season’s theme was as follows:
Revel Grove, Oxfordshire, England
The year is 1532. King Henry VIII has separated from his wife, Queen Katherine, and is determined to secure a divorce and marry Lady Anne Boleyn.
The King, Anne Boleyn, members of the Boleyn and Howard family, as well as friends in the royal court visit the village of Revel Grove as part of their annual summer progress and the village’s Harvest Festival. This year they are in a joyous mood, as they are making their way to Dover, to then sail to Calais where France’s King Francis I will meet Anne Boleyn. This recognition by Francis will show support of the relationship, and prove to the world that Anne is worthy of being Queen.
The King and Anne are in high spirits, as they feel the future is bright and they will shortly be able to wed.
Mayor Richard Mondes, his wife the Baroness Marney, and all of the villagers of Revel Grove are on hand to welcome the King, court, and all of our gracious guests to a fabulous day of feasting and fun!
There were lots of great costumes roaming around. And the experience of it was…okay. I think if I had been alone, I could’ve spent the whole day there wandering around, checking out the fun medieval artisans, eating turkey legs, and drinking mead. But it was still way too crowded for me. And I even had some cranky staff member get confrontational with me for taking a picture of the cool medieval bar she was working in. I must’ve missed the no photo policy on the website…oh, wait, there isn’t one!
My son had a good time though…he made a bee-line to the first shop selling dragon toys, then found the handmade wooden swords and axes. He then shocked me by diving into a life-sized maze by himself and scurrying up a 25-foot climbing wall. I did finally get a plastic cup full of mead though. 🙂
So, I’m glad we got a chance to do it. But I don’t think I’d make the effort to do it again. If you go, definitely try to go early. We left around 12:30pm, and there was a line of cars several miles long waiting to get into the parking area. Huzzah!!