Sherwood Forest Faire Map/Caitlan Burns
Sherwood Forest Faire
Sherwood Forest Faire is a Renaissance Festival located just outside of Elgin, Texas putting it about an hour away from Austin. This close proximity makes it a perfect place to go for a day trip for UT students.
Like other Ren fairs, it also has campsites available to stay the weekend. Sherwood is quite young, having only been operational since 2010. The paths are less established and the boundaries are less defined. The entire faire feels more natural than Texas Renaissance Festival/TRF which is enormous and very structured, or Scarborough Renaissance Festival, which is nice, but has grown larger and more overwhelming over the years. Part of this natural feel has to do with the trees, which provide shade and contribute to the theme of Sherwood Forest. There is one disadvantage though perhaps it should be viewed as part of the experience, it is easier to get turned around in Sherwood.
Because I’ve been going to Rennaissance Festivals since I was quite young, I’m going to skip the kitsch and tell you about the stuff I’ve come to like year after year.
The Falconry Show
I love this particular Falconry show, it’s entertaining and educational. The great thing about it is that no show is the same. Once the show had to stop because one of the birds decided to go off on an adventure of her own. This time the presenter had to turn the owl’s perch to get her to fly back into her enclosure. It’s from this show that I learned owls are surprisingly dumb, a lot of the space that would be taken up with a brain is instead occupied by their unusually large eyes. I also got to see first hand how intelligent ravens and buzzards are. On this trip, the buzzard decided she’d rather lope around looking for food. My favorite part of the show is the end when the raven takes donations from patrons. The money goes to feed the birds, so I always donate. Also, it’s fun to see her grab the money and stuff it in the donation box.
There’s a pub at the faire. It’s dark and cozy and there’s a tree growing in the center of it with a bench built around the trunk. We always sit on that bench because it’s a great spot. In this pub, The Three Stags Pub, the Bedlam Bards hold a show that’s, um, for people who like things a little raunchy. Sex, a crayfish in an uncomfortable place (not the back of a Volkswagen) and an amorous dachshund with priapism are all mentioned in songs the Bedlam Bards sing. The songs aren’t for everyone, I’ll grant you, but for those who enjoy this sort of thing, it’s a great experience. I once went during the weekend when interpreters for the deaf were at performances and, let me tell you, that was an experience. Also, because the show is in a bar, if you’re of age and so inclined, you can get a little tipsy. I find that helps make the songs funnier.
There’s always body art at the fairs, from face and body painting to make kids and adults look like fantastical creatures, or just give them a dancing flame tattoo, which they can easily wash off, to henna adornments which last a good deal longer. There’s even hair braiding so those with longer hair can look more medieval. For the first time, I decided to go with the henna. It’s a big commitment since you have to walk around with the paste on your hand for as long as possible. Happily, the tattoo is still holding strong after five days, even though I took off the henna sooner than I should have. It was interesting to watch the application process and to see the stain darken over time.
Turkey legs are all people seem to talk about. They’re nice, but overpriced. Besides, there’s quite a lot more at most faires. Scotch eggs are a favorite. For those who don’t know, they’re breaded boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat. It sounds odd but it tastes pretty good. Like most fairs there’s a wide variety of foods on a stick. Chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick, sausage on a stick, chocolate covered banana on a stick. I think there might be schnitzel on a stick. There’s also Mediterranean food. And usually some Italian.
Things to Purchase
There are all sorts of things at the faire. It’s pretty similar to the stuff at most faires but, man, what stuff it is. There’re products made of wood, horn and pottery. There cups, bowls, mugs and, as in the picture above, horns for playing. I even found horn and bone needles last year. There’s clothes and jewelry, including corsets, capes, necklaces and hair decorations. Much of the stuff is for dressing up and, while it’s fun to make a costume, how many ren shirts do you really need? How many shiny hair clips that catch and will be lost after a few months? After the first few years, I stopped being interested in a lot of the stuff offered at the fair. I found it’s better to get perishable things that cost less and will be a reminder of the smells and experiences of the faire. Nuts, kettle corn, soap and tea are all good purchases.
Ren fairs have a lot of games and some rides. There’s the test your strength game, and the jousting ride and there’s even a merry go round at Sherwood. Some things are pretty much the same as a regular carnival it’s just there’s a more old-fashioned flair to them and instead of a carnie handing you a sharp object or projectile weapon, there’s a lady strapped into a corset with her bosoms trying to escape. I don’t go much in for games but my roommate always goes to the bow and arrow range and the knife throwing range. I suppose there is something cathartic about the thunk when a knife lands in a target. After the hustle and bustle of the faire, it’s nice to focus and feel like you’ve accomplished something other than spending way too much money.
Altogether any Renaissance faire is an interesting experience. There’s a lot to see, a lot to smell and so many people in interesting costumes. The food choices are extensive, the music is interesting and always live and, though, it’s not really the same as going back in time, everything feels more real than an amusement park or a shopping mall. I heartily recommend that, if you haven’t been to a Renaissance festival/faire and you have the time before Sherwood closes on April 22, you should go. Enjoy yourself. Buy some soap. Enjoy the demonstrations. Eat something on a stick, and exercise the extra calories off by walking around for the day. Don’t worry, getting sweaty and dusty is part of the experience and no one cares. They’re all sweaty and dusty too!