Have you ever wished you could spend the day in another place and time? Perhaps desired to just simply close your eyes and be whisked off to a land where you can have a few hours to yourself in a place very much unlike your own? (But you haven’t quite figured out where to find a working model of the time machine mentioned in H.G. Wells’ classic story?) Thanks to the Great Lakes Medieval Faire, you can do just that and leave behind your 21st century life for a day, a weekend, or even a midsummer night’s season as you step through the gates of Avaloch and into the world of the romantic 13th century.
Celebrating its 20th year of bringing the bravery of knights, the beauty of damsels, the magic of faeries, the intrigue of pirates, and the charm of wood nymphs to life, the Faire opened with grandeur this past weekend, inviting us ordinary folk into a playful retreat filled with stories and legends of olde.
Located just off Rt. 534 in Geneva, you won’t have to travel far this summer for an adventure you won’t soon forget. Open each weekend (Saturday and Sunday) from now until August 12th, the Faire truly does offer a bit of something for everyone with varying themes throughout the season. Those daring enough to brave the scorching triple-digit temperatures on July 7th-8th found themselves frolicking with the faerie-winged during the Fun, Fire and Fantasy festivities. Next weekend will be a special treat for those who especially appreciate the fine craftsmanship on display every year at the Faire as July 14th -15th is the Craft Extravaganza. This is the perfect opportunity to find that special unique holiday gift for the friend or family member who has everything, or a reason to pick up something new for you! Come solve the mystery of history during July 21st -22nd’s Alter Ego Tyme Travel Experience when all time periods on all worlds will collide, or grab your peg-leg, strap on an eye patch, and join in the Pirate Invasion on July 28th – 29th. Show your kilted pride on August 4th – 5th for the Celtic Celebration or dig your favorite toga out of the closet for August 11th – 12th’s Barbarian vs. Romans weekend. No matter when you choose, you can be sure your experience will be anything but ordinary.
Tickets for adults are $22 at the gate, children are $6 (buy online and save a few dollars). Torn between channeling your inner Pirate or showing off your old schoolgirl kilt? Come both weekends and then some with a season pass available at $50, valid for the remaining ten Faire days. Another option that lets you go more than once but won’t make you feel like your pockets were picked by a glen full of mischievous sprites is the weekend pass for one consecutive Saturday and Sunday, just a few dollars more than your original gate ticket.
Arrive at 10:45 am to enjoy a welcome ceremony led by the royal family before the gates are opened at 11am and you are cordially invited into Avaloch. Feel free to meander along the shaded paths as you are greeted by the king’s guards, townspeople, or a villain or two along the way. But don’t worry – there are plenty of dashing swordsmen (and dagger-wielding damsels) to protect you should you find yourself wandering unaccompanied in the darker part of the forest. In fact, you might even encounter a trio of delightfully debonair French fellows as this year’s background story is The Three Musketeers. With several stages set around the forest, visitors of all ages will be entertained by musical acts, firewalking, and comedic skits (or tragic, depending on which imp you ask). The Washing Well Wenches are up to their old antics and fans will be sure not to miss other returning Faire staples while finding new favorites!
If you haven’t happened upon even one of the Musketeers on your travels, you won’t need to leave disappointed – simply head to the Chess Board Stage where they will be defending the Queen’s honor in a live-action chess match to the death (scratch that, match to the “until it really really hurts”) against the evil Cardinal Richelieu and his minions including another dangerous trio, that of the seductive Harlequins. Will eager young d’Artagnan find favor with his suave mentors or will he fall into the trap of Lady de Winter’s womanly wiles? Will King Louis XIII forgive Queen Anne’s secret love for the Duke of Buckingham? You’ll have to watch the match, and the story, unfold on the board as the chess pieces come to life!
Should the shire indeed be safe from treachery and all is well in the kingdom, you may want to enjoy a relaxing stroll through the marketplace where local artisans display their wares and one is certain to find all manner of pretty, sparkly things. Shopkeepers pleasantly entice faire-goers to step inside their booths with the very-true catchphrase: “We have your favorite color: shiny!”
There is certainly no shortage of ideas to decorate your home, your garden, or yourself with “shinies” provided by these creative and talented crafters. One of the ways to temporarily do just that is a new exhibit for this year, the Butterfly Encounter, a mini greenhouse filled with monarchs and painted ladies flitting from potted plants to a cotton swab dipped in nectar – even to a visitor’s hand. The admission charge to this special section is $4 not included in the gate ticket, but those interested can return to the butterfly land and feed the fluttery creatures as many times during the day as they wish.
Beat the heat with cooling refreshments from many different watering holes or non-alcoholic pubs throughout the forest. Also abundant are sweet and savory treats that are admittedly quite tempting to passers-by. Go ahead, indulge! Besides, calories don’t follow you back through time, right?
Although the forest is mostly shaded, spending all day in someone else’s tyme can be tiring (you might THINK you know jet-lag…), so when the heat gets a bit too hot, you might duck into a nearby tent and have those sweaty palms deciphered or hear a quick fortune given to you by a tarot reader such as Lady Dee. Whether you fully believe or consider it “for entertainment purposes only,” or are simply open-minded to the possibility, any way you wish it, you’ll get to have a lovely chat with a very nice lady.
Speaking of chatting with lovely ladies, when you’re tired of walking and need to rest your toes (or perhaps have a “wardrobe malfunction” with a piece of your clothing), meander over to the peaceful central garden and pull up a corner of bench while you listen to the latest gossip from the quite pleasant Ladies Sewing Guild. They’ll definitely have you in “stitches” and are “knot” to be missed.
More tips for when you go:
- Parking is free in the field by the main castle gates.
- The shire is handicapped accessible – the paths through the forest are mainly gravel or dirt and accommodate strollers as well.
- Faire-themed garb is encouraged, but 21st century time-traveler wear is certainly acceptable. Do keep the weather in mind, however, as the Faire is open rain or shine. Dress for the heat! (Think sunscreen and a hat, and a word to the wise, a mini fan discreetly tucked under one’s cloak will do wonders to compensate for the lack of medieval air-conditioning!)
- Pack a cooler with ice and plenty of bottled water – you’ll thank yourself later!
- Many of the artisan booths do gladly accept green American money or even “Lady Visa, Master Card, Lord Discover, and New World Express” as payment.
- You may bring a four-legged friend if desired, (well, please leave the baby dragon at home) however they must be registered at the gate and are not permitted near the festival animals or close to the stages, for the protection of your pet (read: flying swords) as well as for those performing.
For more information, visit www.medievalfaire.com or for specific questions, call 1-855-FAIRE-4-U.
With a smidge of pixie luck and faerie magic, the Great Lakes Medieval Faire will be around for another twenty years, or, in truth, another half-dozen centuries!