The Not Quite History Of The Renaissance

Way back in the days of yore, which in laymen’s terms is about 3o minutes ago, there were these crazy Italians.  They were playing around in their backyard when some little tyke decided that he was going to dig his way to India.  (Because back then they didn’t know about the Americas, the Mayan calendar, or that 2012 was going to be the ending of the universe.). While digging through his back yard and the people of Italy thinking that this was the next Noah, digging an underground tunnel instead of building an ark, he discovered some ancient artifacts.  Originally he thought he had discovered toilet paper, but just as he was about to wipe his butt, he found words on the paper.  He asked his friend what these words meant.  But his friend took one look and responded, “I don’t know. It’s all greek to me.”

It just so happened that it was in Greek.  They started reading words like Protagoras, triangles, and humanism.  Somehow, for the past few hundred years, people had forgotten they were humans because they couldn’t see each other well enough.  It was the Dark Ages after all.  So one of them thought that it might be a good idea to take it to someone who could actually read it.  First, he was going to bring it to a monk, as monks were the only people who seemed to be able to read.  But on his way to grandmother’s house in his red cloak, he met some wolf who talked to him about picking flowers before bringing his grandmother soup.  (And you thought red riding hood was a girl.  Shows how much you know!)

Some guy would eventually come around in his thinking outfit.  It looked like a hunter’s cloak. When he saw the wolf having heartburn on the grandmother’s floor, he decided to put the wolf out of his misery.  When he cut the wolf open, the boy popped out.   He debated for a few moments about whether it was a boy or intestines.  But when the boy decided to say something, he knew that he should probably clean him up.   While he was looking for something to clean the boy off he found the basket filled with papers that were wrapping bread.  Just as he was about to wipe off the boy’s face with them he noticed something about fire and people who could actually see one another.

So Michaelangelo left the boy there in the blood and wolf guts to find his friend Leonardo and ask him if he could translate what was on the pages.  It looked like it was some kind of paint by number painting instructions so he copied all the lines onto the roof of some chapel and asked if Leonardo would help him filling in all of the colors.  Leonardo, hotly debated Michaelangelo about the paint by numbers scheme and decided to take the papers back to his own personal laboratory.

There he found out it wasn’t a paint by number instructions at all.  He started to translate it and found that it said, “man was the measure of all things.”  So Leonardo and other’s became obsessed with the human form and all other things human.  He figured that humans were the most important things in the universe.  After concluding that, he felt like he needed to do even more study of the era.  So he had some witch doctor test different chemicals.  From these chemical mixtures, a little brown bird appeared, which we know as a wren.

Leonardo and the doctor decided that the experiment was so cool that they would take the show on the road.  The called the show “Wren a Science.”  But the people making the posters for it didn’t know how to spell.  So when the final posters were made the show was called the Renaissance.

This show grew larger and larger until it spread across the European Continent.  It began in Florence, spread to other Italian City-States, and would make it’s way to the edges of Asia.  Of course, there were some Turks who weren’t very happy with the Italians at the time and they saw the show as a backward-looking Frankenstein’s monster type of show.  Why would they want to examine some 1300-year-old papers that some Italian boy dug up?  It was all Greek to them too.  So they said stop right there you silly Italians.  And that was where it stopped.

300 Years Later . . .

Ok!  The exact history of the Renaissance maybe a little different than that.  There were so many different components.  But I liked my Wikipedia and internet infused history better.  So it stuck.  And so some 300 years from the original Renaissance “re-birth” some California natives decided that it would be cool to put on a show honoring a time when doctors were as likely to use leeches on you as anything else, and drinking alcohol was a spectator sport.

This year commemorates the 55th year that they have been putting the Renaissance Pleasure Faire on in Southern California.  This festival takes the late 1500’s Elizabethan England and updates it to today.  So craftsmen, wenches, clowns, knights, acrobats and other performers, as well as guilds plying their trades, are all out there to be seen mixing it up with the locals.  Created originally by Ron and Phyllis Patterson in conjunction with the living history center in the Agoura Hills, it eventually moved to its present day location, the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Center, in Irwindale.

The ownership group changed hands multiple times over the years.  The most recent of these groups has strived to keep the entertainment family friendly to bring in a wider variety of audiences.  Also, they haven’t adhered as strictly to the dress code which some re-enactors consider repugnant.  This means themed weekends, comic and fairy inspired attire, and a plethora of other things going on have contributed to many of the recent developments at the Faire.

The 2017 Renaissance Pleasure Faire

I understand what you are thinking.  Despite all of my ridiculous introduction, what do I think of the Pleasure Faire and is it worth going?  Absolutely!  My daughter and I have been going for the last 3 years and we have had an absolute blast!  We get to mix it up with the various different common folk, get dressed up if we so choose, participate in all kinds of different re-enactment activities, watch a few shows, purchase some things from amazing craftsman, try all kinds of renaissance themed food, and enjoy all of the crazy people watching.  Just take a look at all of the Renaissance Inspired madness that you can participate in.


My daughter signed up for a lady in waiting training.



She receives her honor for completing the training afterward.



She’s taking an archery lesson. Better watch out boys!



Mixing it up with the locals. Can you think on your feet?



There is a doctor in the house . . . somewhere.



Cheer on your favorite knight! Ours won!!!




Here’s Broon! He juggles flame, bowling balls, and apples. And sometimes he uses whips. But here he is just introducing my daughter to the Queen.



Sometimes there is even a Middle Eastern flair.



And sometimes there are skull parades… I mean mortality parades… I mean…


Our Top 5 Must See Events At The Faire

And these are just a few of the many things that you can participate in.  If I wanted to put pictures and video in of everything here I think this page would take years to load.  I think if my daughter and I were to list a top five favorite things, they would include the following:

1) Broon

He tells jokes.  He juggles fire.  And he even uses whips.  What’s great about him is that he is a smart comedian.  Broon engages his audience in his act and we are all the better for it.  Well . .  . except maybe his long-suffering sign language translator.  She doesn’t get paid enough to translate what he says.  But it’s all in good fun.

Moonie playing with fire. Will he get burned?

2) Moonie

He is the counterpoint to Broon.   Broon tells smart quips.   Moonie uses physical comedy to engage his audience.   From his amusing attempts to climb onto a tightrope to communicating to his assistants with whistles and singing, Moonie brings a unique magic all his own.  And what’s even better is that both he and Broon have a dual show later in the day.  Of course, it’s a more adult version of the show.  So you might want to leave the kids at home for this one.

3) The Merry Wives of Windsor

These are a very talented group of all female singers who communicate through laughter and song.  They are an engaging group of women both pleasing to the eyes as well as the ears.  Most of their day is spent in an “NC-17” section of the Faire.  So if you have kids and want to see them, make sure to get there early.  I guarantee it will be worth your trip.

4) Queen Elizabeth –

Of course, the Pleasure Faire is set during her reign as Queen.  So they couldn’t very well have a Faire without her.  She and her court stroll through the Faire from time to time and you can catch a glimpse of her.  She has two events that help engage your kids as well.  The training for the ladies in waiting allows your little girls to learn a little bit about the time and participate in a ceremony with her as they learn what it means to wait on the Queen.  For the boys, or for your physically inclined girl, they have Squire training for knights.  They parade them into the jousting area where Queen Elizabeth awaits.  Here they honor and assist their knights in a skills competition.  Enjoy the Queen as she encourages her knights through a Renaissance sporting event.  Pick sides yourself and cheer on your favorite knight.

5) People Watching –

Yes, there are some more amazing acts performing.  And yes, we love all of the guilds as well as going shopping for unique treasures there.  But there are so many wonderful things that if you tried to put them all here this list would be 50 and not 5.  I would lose you somewhere.  It is a costumed Faire.  This means that the Faire welcomes everyone to come in costume.  On any given day you will find pilgrims, fairies, Dr. Who, pirates, witches, steampunk, wizards, Gandalf, and much more.  And you can join in the fun.  Be a princess, or be Conan the Barbarian.  They accept all kinds there.  You will be too.  And my daughter, aside from dressing up, loves to see all the amazing people in their Renaissance best.

Southern California provides a ton of entertainment in all different varieties.  The Renaissance Pleasure Faire definitely adds to this amazing list of activities.  Unfortunately, it’s the last weekend of the Faire this year.  We went yesterday and had an amazing time despite the ridiculous heat.  When you are in Southern California in April or May, you should definitely take a visit to a simpler time when knights roamed the streets, and jokes were bawdy.  It will be worth your visit.

For those of you who were able to make it, what are your favorite parts of the Faire?  And for those of you who have similarly themed fairs in your area, what do you like about them the most?  Would you dress up?  And what’s the craziest costume that you have?  I would love to hear from you.

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Until next time, “Here stand I. I can do no other.”

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life