On April 30th, 2022, I attended my first ever Renaissance faire in Kilgore, TX. I was looking for things to do around town during Maymester because I had decided to take the month of May off my college studies and continue them in the summer.
A simple Google search informed me that a Renaissance faire was happening right in my backyard. The name of the faire was “Avalon Faire” and this would be the last weekend. The faire goes on during the month of April (and then starts up again for Oktoberfest). Reviews revealed that the faire was small—and therefore for an agoraphobe like me, somewhat less threatening than some of its big-city counterparts—and also fun, warm, and welcoming.
I ended up having a wonderful time but there were a few things I wished I had known going in that I want to share with you. I also want to share with you how going to the faire impacted me emotionally and helped to shift my outlook on life.
The Shops are Expensive, but Most of the Fun is Included in the Ticket Price
I can’t lie, when I first got in, I felt disappointed. There were shops everywhere, and while they were all selling cool wares, many of them were outside my budget (I did end up finding a tent with items I could afford, though). I wanted to get in on the “action.” The only thing I knew was that one of the horse-riding competitions was going to happen in about an hour and I wanted to be there for that. I had arrived at around 11 AM and the jousting, another event I wanted to see, wouldn’t happen until 4 PM.
There is one thing that I will warn you about; you will likely spend more money than you intend to, even if you don’t pay for big-ticket items or if you decide to have lunch in your car or outside the event grounds. Some places don’t take cash, so there’s an ATM at the front for you to use, for a fee. There is a lot to tempt you, and at Avalon Faire, game tickets cost extra money, so if you want to shoot arrows or throw axes (see picture below!) you will need to pay more. However, the best of Avalon—the musicians, bardic performances, magicians, puppet shows, and so on—is free after you’ve paid a [quite reasonable] ticket price. Just don’t forget to set aside a little extra cash to tip your performers.
And about those performances…
You Will Lose Track of the Schedule, but that’s Probably a Good Thing
Again, my experience is limited to Avalon Faire, but it didn’t take long for me to lose track of what was happening when. When it was time for the horse-riding competition, a royal procession went through the grounds playing music and individual members invited us to come to the event, so that was very obvious. However, when it came to knowing when other performances would be happening I had to try to pay attention to signs or just catch things after they had started. Ultimately, this was not a bad thing at all, because it forced me to wander the grounds—which due to the small size was a manageable task, even in the Texas heat—and it allowed me to make new discoveries along the way.
I would travel the same path multiple times and it would feel like I would see something that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, I found myself crossing “The Troll Bridge” and there was a person in a troll costume crawling around in the brush besides it. There was this little kid behind them with this goofy look on his face, who was clearly impressed but also hesitant to approach fully.
I got to catch the tail end of a belly dancing show and then wandered up to the “tavern” (yes, they serve real alcohol) where I got to hear a beautiful Irish American vocalist named Diane Linn sing and pluck out tunes on her guitar. For the record, she had no idea what was happening when, either; most performers only knew when their own shows were and I can’t blame that on them at all.
You Don’t Have to Wear a Costume to Enjoy Yourself
Because I learned about this event short notice—and due to the fact that my wallet is currently compromised—I wasn’t able to wear a costume to this event. I wasn’t alone. While there were plenty of eventgoers dressed in various complicated get-ups, plenty more were there in plainclothes like me and just there to soak it all in.
It’s easy to imagine you’ll feel out of place at the faire—either because of the clothes you’re wearing or possibly even because of the color of your skin—but at least at Avalon, I was made to feel completely welcome. The faire, I discovered, often serves as a place for people who feel that they don’t fit in fully anywhere else. It’s an opportunity to be a different person, to live in a different world, if only for a day or two.
Which reminds me…
It’s OK to Go to Big Events By Yourself
I ended up going to the faire alone because I couldn’t convince anyone to join me on my “silly” adventure. In the end, this was a wonderful thing, because it gave me the freedom to wander wherever I wanted on the grounds—as I mentioned earlier—as well as slip into a funny accent from time to time just to see how it felt to do so.
I feel that going to events alone has been stigmatized. We think that people who “fly solo” to events are meant to be pitied. We sometimes pity ourselves if we don’t have a “plus one” for gatherings of all kinds. In Japan, entire businesses have arisen out of peoples’ desire to have a “fake friend” or “fake relative” accompany them to different events. We’re not always okay being in our own company.
I think what made the experience more favorable for me was that I never considered myself to be alone at the faire. I was surrounded by strangers, but I was also surrounded by people that I felt free to interact with, freer than I might have felt in a different setting. I felt that the people who I was at the faire with shared common interests with me.
The World Is a Really Big Place
I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Of course, it is!” but for some reason, shortly before going to the faire, I didn’t know that anymore. I was nose-deep in my BAAS studies, and I hardly ever allowed myself to spend any time on leisure or to go out. I would even try to turn my “leisure” time into something productive; I would be working on writing, music, or both. I would feel guilty if I spent a couple hours every couple of days playing The Sims 4.
It’s easy to feel as though you exist in a bubble to yourself and that is exactly how I felt. My world had become very small. Spending hours outside was also something that I hadn’t done in years because I have terrible allergies, but the hours I spent at the faire were 100% worth it. It was hard to convince myself to go home, actually, but the weather was getting bad and I didn’t want to experience warm rain.
In the end, I am so glad that I made the trip to Avalon Faire, and I’m looking forward to returning for Oktoberfest (expect updates regarding that). If there’s something that you’ve been wanting to do in life that you’ve been putting off, and the opportunity arises, I encourage you to take the leap. It could end up being a very positive experience for you, and even if it isn’t, there is always something to learn.