Merry old England in Pennsylvania

October 02, 2007|By JESSI FULTON

MANHEIM, Pa. - Step through the gate at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at Mount Hope Winery in Manheim, and it's easy to think you have stepped into the merry old England of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.

Around you are women in flowing gowns and beaded caps accompanied by gentlemen in tights and tunics. Trumpets and fiddles play in the background.

Lords and ladies dance.

Walk through the hilly, winding streets of the Shire, as the Faire village is called. You'll see shops that sell jewelry, Renaissance clothing, weapons and interesting trinkets. There's a tarot card reader and a henna artist who will draw designs on your skin.

Elephant rides and sword fights are common entertainment at the fair.

And there's food for sale. There is the leg-o'-turkey shop, the sausage shop and a sweet spot that sells only food covered in chocolate - decadent and delicious.


You don't just attend the Renaissance Faire. You feel like you're part of the Faire. Part of that is due to the actors who play characters at the Faire - Queen Elizabeth, pirates, a witch, jesters and Shakespeare - all staying in character while acting out a day-long story of surviving and conniving at the royal court. And there's a pirate captain and crew wandering the streets. The captain does a close impersonation of Jack Sparrow.

Period clothing is a must for visitors to the Renaissance Fair. Don't be afraid you'll look stupid. You won't. The more over-the-top, the better. Anyone who wears a pair of jeans at the fair is going to get a lot of glances and whispers from the actors at the fair.

Because this is basically a daylong improv play, the actors talk with visitors and joke with them. The things they say are hilarious. When the queen comes by, girls should curtsy and bow their heads. Boys should put hand to heart and shout, "God save the queen!"

There is a schedule of entertainment during the day - juggling, dancing, singing, magic, human chess and the royal hypnotist - to name just a few.

One of the must-see shows at the fair is the mud pit. The MuckMasters, a trio of comedians, perform live skits in and around, yes, a pit of mud. One of their favorite claims is, "It's like sea world, but darker!" The Muckmasters perform several times each day, every show has a different plot and is about 30 to 60 minutes long. These are dirty stories - in more ways than one. (It would be PG-13.) Be prepared: If you sit in the first five rows, you are guaranteed to be muddy by the time the show's over. Enjoy.

Also, characters wander the streets of the Shire throughout the day, playing scenes from a daylong story. In this year's story, the Earl of Essex returns from Ireland and decides to name himself the next king of England. The people of England are offended by the Earl's bold claim and the queen has doubts of his faithfulness.

Sir Walter Raleigh declares a loathing for Essex, and the queen is concerned about tension in the court. She decides the matter must be solved. Essex and Raleigh are commanded to settle the matter at an afternoon human chess tournament and at a joust in the evening.

Overall, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is an educational, fun experience. It's open on weekends through Oct. 28. Tickets are available at the gate or go online to This site also gives you directions and information on weekend themes.

God save the Queen!

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