To those persons who went for an innocent stroll at Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan on Oct. 1 and were surprised to be greeted in Ye Olde English, there’s no need to worry about having fallen through a crack in time or the park being permanently overrun by lunatics. Rather, these souls merely stumbled upon the 33rd annual Fort Tryon Park Renaissance Faire. Specifically, they stumbled upon the actors who perform during the 11:30 a.m. opening parade.

Fort Tryon Park attracts Renaissance fans throughout the year since the Cloisters museum — a dismantled castle that was re-built inside of the park in the early 1900s — is located inside, but on the day of the annual Faire, the park becomes a true center for Arts and Entertainment that “peasants” of all ages can enjoy. This year’s Faire included activities and entertainment of numerous kinds. At any given time, attendees could watch acrobats or fire eaters —performers who, among other tricks, put flaming objects in their mouths to extinguish them —  on the “main stage,” a puppet show at the “little theater,” or a blacksmith and sculptor at the vendor’s booths.

For instance, a group of literary geeks with an ear, though little talent for, music may have needed to skip out on watching a sword be created at the blacksmith’s, but would be able to meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men. This talented acting troupe travels to various Faires and hosts shows where Faire visitors can meet the legendary hero as Robin Hood argues with and evades the Sheriff of Nottingham, harasses and is harassed by his Merry Men and romances Maid Marion. In the same area, the “Little Theater,” is the musician’s row where talented musicians play original songs on rarely-seen instruments like lutes (similar to a guitar), harps and cornemuses (a double reed instrument that looks like a type of bassoon) for just a few coins from a “bubble-bow” (purse).

Of course, the jousting and weapons area was the hit of the Faire. Weapons experts from throughout New York gathered to compete against one another in authentic Renaissance garb. As in, 60 pounds of armor and all-out brawling with real steel swords, axes and other assorted weaponry. To shake things up during these tournaments, a popular Renaissance Faire activity is Live Chess. Two “Kings” begin the game by yelling commands to the other “pieces” as they move across the field. When two pieces come into contact, they fight to determine the winner — not like an average chess match where whichever piece reaches the spot second wins. This, along with much pre-planning, condensed what could be a several hour-long game into a half hour segment full of real sword fights and audience participation. Some of the best “matches” involved children who, in amazing feats of strength, would defeat knights twice their size with the use of foam swords.

“The Tuxedo Faire (which occurs each year from August to October in Tuxedo, N.Y.) is definitely a better Faire. This one is over more area, but since it’s for only one day — it’s mobbed,” Danielle Agate ’19 said at the conclusion of the Faire. By the time 2 p.m. rolled around, movement was more than difficult and getting seats at the shows was near impossible. Even the vendors were backed up, growing confused and running out of staple Renaissance Faire products with hours left before the Faire closed. Sadly, this meant that the crowds surrounding the axe-throwing and archery areas were impossible to breach.

From music to artists to actors and jesters, the Faire has something for attendees of all ages to enjoy, but due to the crowds and the limited hours it is open, the Tryon Park Faire is an unfortunate choice for a first venture into the Renaissance world. There is just not enough time to get a feel for the event and far too many people to successfully partake in many of the basic Renaissance Faire events without discomfort to all involved. Still, for those returning Renaissance fans already familiar with Faire activities, Tryon Park, especially with its proximity to the Cloisters, is a real treat.

About The Author

-- Executive Editor Emeritus -- English Literature & Film, Television, and Media Arts

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