Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cider Pressing, Topsfield Fair, Pumpkin Palooza, Princess Contest, Faeries, and Apple Festivals Galore- New England Fall Events Top Picks for Sept 30-Oct 6, 2015

Wadsworth Atheneum Hartford CT New England Fall Events
The grand staircase mural at the
Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT

The weekend weather couldn't have been dreamed up any better than we've had in recent weeks! Honestly, Mother Nature has been very very good to us lately and we hope that she will continue to bestow this crisp, cool, sunny weather as long as possible!

New England Fall Events has loved taking advantage of every moment of it with the many outdoor festivals and events that dot our calendar day in and day out. Our favorite season looks and feels the part and it reminds us yet again how lucky we are to enjoy celebrate this time of year and how much is right at our fingertips.

More PYO Apples varieties! Annnnnd (drum roll...) Honey Crisps are HERE!
George Hill Orchards MA New England Fall Events
Apple Picking at George Hill Orchards
It continues to be a pleasure that every day brings news of more apple varieties ready for pick-your-own harvesting. We know you will all be thrilled to know that many New England farms are ready to roll with their honey crisps--everyone's favorite!

Look for McIntosh, Cortland, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Macoun, Blue Pearmain, Empire, Jonamacs, Prima, Liberty varieties just to name a few. Some orchards such as Kimball Fruit Farm have plentiful PYO varieties and they are already harvesting several of their heirloom varieties too.

As always, New England Fall Events has your complete guides, features, maps, and contact details for your local or destination-area New England PYO apple orchards. Here are your quick links to our apple picking guides: ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont

Where have New England Fall Events Been Lately?
Revels River Sing Cambridge MA New England Fall Events
Lady on parade at the Revels' RiverSing
What a September it has been for us! We are still talking about our day at EnvisionFest Hartford where we were so impressed by the variety of arts-focused activities that dotted downtown Hartford and where we were able to see the newly (and stunningly) renovated Wadsworth Atheneum
The activities and games were plentiful and created with care. There was so much to enjoy in one day that we felt we barely scratched the surface of all the fun to be had. We also learned about next month's Night Fall event at this festival and you better believe we have it circled on our calendar! It was an impressive day all around--well done, Hartford!

For days after the delightful Revels River Sing parade and sing-a-long in Harvard Square, we'd catch ourselves humming "Somo el Barco, Somo el Mar..." and reminiscing about watching the sun set over the Charles River while the community sang together.
The Big E Sheep Shearing New England Fall Events
Getting primped for showing at The Big E

We've trekked through Vermont for the annual Pumpkin Chuckin' event and we'll have photos and a wrap up for you soon!

We spent all day Friday at The Big E and were amazed at the scale of this New England "States" Fair. There is still one weekend left to catch the festivities there and despite the draw of the food and ride, we implore you not to overlook the wonderfully educational agriculture exhibits and showings as well as the crafts at Storrowton Village. 
The paper marbling demo was fascinating and the agricultural exhibits were thoughtfully done. We'll be writing a monumental wrap-up of this monumental fall event but hoo-boy is there a lot to cover (and a million photos to sift through).

Where is New England Fall Events Headed this Weekend?
You can catch us at the day-long Day of the Dead Scavenger Hunt in Taunton, MA on Sunday and we are hoping to make it to Topsfield Fair on Friday if the stars align just right!

New England Foliage Report from our favorite foliage tracker Jeff-Foliage:
This week Jeff Foliage says "The cool September nights' are having a big impact on the fall foliage colors throughout northern New England and the colors are moving south. The best places seen early this week are......"  Click here to read Jeff's full report.

New England Fall Events' Top Recommendations for this Weekend's Fall Fun
With the number of fun and charming events and festivals going every weekend it keeps getting harder to whittle down our Top Picks to just a handful. Thankfully, these are just a few of the many terrific events listed on every New England state’s Fall & Activities guide and Food & Harvest Festival Guide. 

Here are our recommended activities for Sept 30-Oct 6:
Roget Williams Zoo Jack-o-lantern Spectacular New England Fall Events

Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger William Zoo
Providence, RI     Click for details
Thursday, October 1st- November 1st, 2015

Peacham Fall Foliage Festival
Peacham VT     Click for details
Thursday, October 1st 2015

Wee Faerie Village presents Whimsical Kingdoms
Old Lyme, CT     Click for details
Thursday, October 1st-November 1st 2015

The Big E Circus Museum New England Fall Events
Topsfield Fair
Topsfield, MA     Click for details
Friday, October 2nd- 12th, 2015

Fall Wine Tour with Vermont Farm Tours
Burlington, VT     Click for details
Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Southington Apple Harvest Festival
Southington, CT     Click for details
Friday through Sunday, October 2nd-4th, 9th-11th, 2015

Apple Day Celebration at Gilsland Farm
The Big E Apple Pie New England Fall Events
Falmouth, ME     Click for details
Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Woodstock Foliage Walk - FREE
Woodstock, VT     Click for details
Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Harvest Fair at the Norman Bird Sanctuary
Middletown, RI     Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd & 4th, 2015

Pumpkin Palooza
Salem, MA     Click for details
Princess Sing-along King Richards Faire Carver MA Renaissance  New England Fall EventsSaturday, October 3, 2015

Pet Weekend at CT Renaissance Faire
North Haven, CT     Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd & 4th, 2015

Exeter Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival
Exeter, NH     Click for details
Saturday, October 3, 2015

Prince & Princess Costume Contest at King Richard's Faire
Carver, MA     Click for details
Saturday October 3rd, 2015 (rain date: Sun. Oct 4th)
Read about New England Fall Events visit to KRF and learn insider tips for your visit!

Apple Picking New England Fall Events
Ringo Matsuri (Apple Festival) at Shelburne Vineyards
Shelburne, VT      Click for details
Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

NH Lakes Region Barrel Tasting Weekend
Meredith, NH       Click for details
Saturday and Sunday October 3rd and 4th, 2015

Harvest Party and Cider Pressing at Red Fire Farm
Granby, MA     Click for details
Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

The Big E Pumpkin Facts New England Fall EventsFreeport Fall Festival
Freeport, ME     Click for details
Saturday & Sunday, October 3rd & 4th, 2015

Day of the Dead Scavenger Hunt and Party in the Pines
Taunton, MA     Click for details
Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Heading out for some fall fun this weekend? 
Need help mapping out where to go? New England Fall Events’ state page maps are handy for scrolling and spotting farms near home or near your road-trip destination.
Orchard and fall attraction maps for ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont.

Remember, always call ahead before heading out to PYO as some farms will adjust their hours for weather or they close to allow more time for fruit to ripen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Our American Girl Doll Train Ride Adventure

by Shel Tscherne/New England Fall Events 

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_Woonsocket RI Depot_New England Fall Events
The Woonsocket Train Depot
In mid-September, with our two daughters in tow, we made a beeline for Woonsocket, RI where there was a weekend-long American Girl Doll celebration in honor of their 2015 Girl of the Year doll--Grace Thomas.
Save the Date: The American Girl Train Ride in the Blackstone Valley will take place Saturday, September 17th, 2016. Details.
Our family was thrilled to have the opportunity to cover this once-in-a-lifetime event first-hand on behalf of New England Fall Events. It was an especially fun event for us since my own daughter's name is Grace and she has a Grace Thomas doll. To top it off, the Grace Thomas character hails from from Massachusetts too so the event fit our family like a glove.

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Red Carpet
Posing with the dolls on the "red carpet"
Saturday was a gorgeous September day for our adventure. We arrived at the Woonsocket, RI Train Depot at 1:00pm for our 2:00pm departure. We planned to show up early because we had heard that there would be lots of extra fun activities to enjoy before the train left and we were not disappointed at all! 

When we arrived, we shared a glamorous moment on the American Girl Doll red carpet before heading inside the train depot to see what else we could discover. 
Imagine our surprise to find that the interior of the train station was decorated as if it we'd stepped into a place in Paris--lovely!

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Sweet Indulgence Pastry RI
Treats by RI's own Sweet Indulgence
For those who are unfamiliar with Grace Thomas' story, though the Grace character is from Massachusetts, a good portion of her journey takes place in Paris where she travels to help her uncle in his Patissierie and learn from a French pastry chef. 

On this day, the train depot was decorated to the nines and there were endless pictures to capture! We took photos at Le Patisserie and another sweet photo with each girl inside a life-sized American Girl of the Year box.

There were cookies to decorate, sweet treats by Sweet Indulgence to purchase, a visit with Miss Rhode Island, as well as a raffle!

Parisian music added to the atmosphere giving everything an authentic feel. There were so many people in attendance that at times it could be challenging to know where each line began and ended but everyone was super nice, patient, and having so much fun that it made the whole experience that much sweeter.

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Train Map Parisian Musicians

At last, it was time to board our train! The musical trio had moved outside and we made our way down to our designated train car. Each adult was given a gift bag, and each girl in attendance was given one as well. The adult gift bag had everything in it that the children's gift bags did but the children's bags also included an extra treat for the dolls!

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Party and Gift Bag

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Blackstone Valley River Bridge
Blackstone Valley view from our train

Our train car was decorated to celebrate Grace Thomas’ birthday. The map inside our bags further explained that Grace Thomas lived in the historic Blackstone Valley and so we’d pass many of the types of places she would see in her travels.

Our train had a welcoming hostess who led us in songs, games, and even dancing! We each were given a cupcake (after all, what’s a birthday without cupcakes?!) made by Rhode Island's own Sweet Indulgence plus we received a souvenir travel mug of lemonade.

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Train Experience_New England Fall Events_Bingo in Paris
Playing "Bingo in Paris" on the train 
After a rousing game of "Bingo in Paris" each girl and mama was given a chocolate Eiffel Tower as the game prize (of course, everyone won!) and each doll was gifted a balloon and even some cookie cutters!
An hour later our train returned to the station. The hour had simply flown by and we were sad it see the adventure come to a close. 

While the American Girl Doll events can come with a hefty price tag, the organizers truly know how to put on a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience and you will absolutely get your money's worth for a special occasion. We had a fantastic time and our train ride is an adventure we will talk about for years to come!

Fairy Houses, Pumpkin Chuckin', Autumn-Fest, Fluffernutters, and more- New England Fall Events Top Picks for Sept 23-29, 2015

It's another white-hot weekend for fall festivities coming up! Your head just may spin from all the fabulous fun competing for your attention! 

Where is New England Fall Events Headed this Weekend?

Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival _ New England Fall Events
How far can YOU chuck a pumpkin?
New England Fall Events is thrilled to be making our way up to the 7th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Event! Set in a wide open field, competitors engineer DIY trebuchets to see how far the participants can catapult a pumpkin!With three rounds of launching in four different "weight" categories, this fun fall event also features a chili cook-off, live bands, children's activities and more. Pumpkin Chuckin' Event details.

While in Vermont we will be popping by Sam Mazza Farms to enjoy their Giant Pumpkin Weigh-in for the first time. 
As if that isn't enough, we're also very excited to be visiting Springfield's The Big E on Friday and Fright Fest at Six Flags New England on Saturday! Looks like we will be busy making the most of the fall fun that New England has to offer--what will you be up to?

This weekend's Portsmouth Fairy Tour is one of the most anticipated events of the season!
Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour_New England Fall Events
Just one of over 200 stunning fairy houses
You've been seeing us build it up for weeks and you might be wondering why! Our experience at the Portsmouth Fairy House Tour was so special and memorable that we simply refuse to one of the best events of the season be overlooked!
We've got a sneak peek into the Fairy House Tour with our short video of festival moments and our full write up will give you in-depth look at why this is a festival not to be missed!

Can't attend this weekend? Here's our Fall Guide to Fairy and Princess Events Across New England.

The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival is a world class gem in our backyard
Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival MA_New England Fall Events
Beatnik Jam at the PTown TW Fest
The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival is an acclaimed 4-day festival featuring many of the lesser-known, rarely-produced, or newly interpreted Williams’ plays often in unconventional settings (inside a home, at a boat slip). 

Celebrating its 10th year, New England is incredibly fortunate to host a festival of this stature right here in our own backyard! We had an outstanding time last year attending this festival and appreciated the unique vision and re-imagined productions that this festival features. 

Tickets are limited for the performances running Thursday through Sunday and we hope you will have a chance to go. Here's a full account of our trip to this event and we'll give you a taste of the treat you are in for

Bridgewater celebrates 27 years of Autumn-fest this Saturday
Barn Babies Bunny Swaddle _ Autumn-Fest Bridgewater MA_New England Fall Events
Barn Babies were a hit at Autumn-fest
This Saturday will be a whirlwind of fun starting off with the Autumn-Fest in Bridgewater, MA--their 27th year of bringing fall fun and community support to the residents of Bridgewater and beyond!

Autumn-Fest is a super family-friendly festival jam-packed with kids’ activities, performances, crafts, vendors, train rides, live music, bouncy houses, petting zoo, and more all on the expansive quad at Bridgewater State University.
New England Fall Events had the pleasure of attending this festival first-hand and here's everything you would love to know about Autumn-fest.

Flufferettes_Somerville MA What the Fluff Festival_New England Fall Events
Flufferettes at What the Fluff? Festival
Somerville's What the Fluff? Festival Coming up Saturday!
You may not know that inventor Archibald Query developed Marshmallow Fluff right in Somerville’s Union Square 98 years ago but if you are a native New Englander you know what an important role fluffernutter sandwiches play in our childhood food culture.

The Somerville What the Fluff? Festival this Saturday gives proper homage to this sticky sugary culinary goo with wacky games, fluff-inspired food, fluff jousting, fluff fear factor and more! Eating FlufferNutters are a New England childhood rite of passage and now you can add the What the Fluff? Festival to your True New Englander bucket list. Read about this one-of-a-kind festival right here: "Somerville's Fluff Festival is Sticky, Campy Fun for your Bucket List".

In case you missed it...
We recently posted our wraps ups from our recent visits to a few delightful New England Festivals.
Be sure to check out "Celebrating the 'stinky rose' at Vermont's Garlic and Herb Festival" and "King Richard's Faire Offers Charm and Good Cheer" which is an ongoing festival through October.

New England Foliage Report from our favorite foliage tracker Jeff-Foliage:
This week Jeff Foliage says "Welcome to the First day of Autumn--Last week we were wondering if the cooler temperatures of autumn would ever arrive. But just in time for the first day of fall the summer temps have broken and it feels like autumn. The fall colors can't be too far behind these cool temps..."  Click here to read Jeff's full report.

New England Fall Events' Top Recommendations for this Weekend's Fall Fun
With plenty of fantastic festivities going on this weekend we don't envy you having to narrow down your fun. As always, there are even more terrific events listed on every New England state’s Fall & Activities guide and Food & Harvest Festival Guide.

Here are our recommended activities for Sept 23-29th:

An Evening With Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour_New England Fall Events
Peer into a fairy house in Portsmouth NH
Providence, RI     Click for details
Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Harvest Moon" Full Moon Dinner
Newry, ME     Click for details
Friday, September 25th, 2015

Brews & Blues Beer Tasting at The Windjammer
Westerly, RI     Click for details
Friday, September 25, 2015

11th Annual Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
Portsmouth, NH      Click for details.
Saturday and Sunday, Sept 26th & 27th, 2015
Our in-depth look at the Portsmouth Fairy House Tour!
Check out our video from last year's Fairy House Tour.

Scenic Festival _ Autumn-Fest Bridgewater MA_New England Fall Events
Autumn-Fest in Bridgewater MA
Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
Provincetown, MA     Click for details.
Thursday through Sunday, Sept 24th - 27th, 2015

Here's why this is a cultural gem not to be missed!

Foraging Edible Wild Mushrooms at Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Boylston, MA     Click for details
Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Working Waterfront Festival
New Bedford, MA     Click for details
Saturday & Sunday, September 26th & 27th, 2015

Giant Pumpkin Weigh-In at Sam Mazza Farms
Fluff-a-Tron-3000_Somerville MA What the Fluff Festival_New England Fall Events
Fluff-a-tron 3000 at What the Fluff? Fest
Colchester, VT      Click for details
Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Autumn-Fest– FREE
Bridgewater, MA     Click for details.
Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Read about our visit to Autumn-Fest!

Pumpkin Festival at Escobar’s Highland Farm 
Portsmouth, RI      Click for details. 
Saturday, September 26th, 2015 (rain date 9/27)
Read about our visit to the Escobar Farm Corn Maze

What the Fluff? Festival – FREE
Somerville, MA    Click for details.
Saturday, September 26, 2015 (Rain date: Sunday, Sept 27th)
VT Garlic and Herb Festival Bennington_New England Fall Events
Garlic lovers unite in Orange, MA

Peru Fair
Peru, VT   Click for details.
Saturday, September 26th, 2015.

North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival
Orange, MA  Click for details.
Saturday and Sunday, September 26th-27th, 2015

Wild Mushroom Festival at DPNC
Mystic, CT     Click for details.
Sunday, Sept 27th, 2015
Read why we recommend and love this festival - festival tips included!

Williston Chowder Challenge
Trebuchet Pumpkin Chuckin Festival Stowe VT_New England Fall Events
Trebuchet at VT Pumpkin Chuckin'
Williston, VT     Click for details
Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival
Stowe, VT  Click for event details.
Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Especially for Me! Free Morning for Families with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Infants and Toddlers at the Discovery Museums
Acton, MA     Click for details
Monday, September 28th, 2015

Night Paddle and Blood Moon Eclipse Event at Fields Pond
Holden, ME     Click for details
Monday, September 28th, 2015

Apple Picking_New England Fall Events
Heading out apple picking this weekend? New England Fall Events has complete guides, features, maps, and contact info for New England PYO apple orchards. Here are your quick links to the apple picking guides:

Need help mapping out where to go? New England Fall Events’ state page maps are handy for scrolling and spotting farms near home or near your road-trip destination. Orchard and fall attraction maps for ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont.

Remember, always call ahead before heading out to PYO as some farms will adjust their hours for weather or they close to allow more time for fruit to ripen.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Celebrating the "Stinky Rose" at Vermont's Garlic and Herb Festival

by Deb Wojcicki / New England Fall Events

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Hard neck Garlic
New England Fall Events visited the Annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival in Bennington, Vermont in early September.
The 2016 VT Garlic and Herb Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 3rd & 4th, 2016. Click for event details.

True to its name, this award-winning festival is paradise for aficionados of the stinking rose. With just under 200 vendors this year, the two-day festival has a little something for everyone (even non-garlic eaters) and offers hours of entertainment for the entire family. To be clear, this is a "bucket list" festival--one of those events that you must experience at least once in your lifetime.

Held at picturesque Camelot Village, our day was filled with live music, all manner of food to sample or to purchase, and there was even a tented pub to relax and enjoy a garlic margarita. If you're into antiques, the Antique Center at Camelot Village is not to be missed.
Although there were dozens of vendors selling colorful baskets, unique jewelry and stunning artwork, this is largely a food festival where you'll have the opportunity to try pretty much garlic everything; garlic-infused lemonade, fudge, pickles, hot sauce, jelly, sausages, jerky, chocolate chip shortbread cookies... you name it and someone here has likely made it - even garlic soap, guaranteed to keep away "vampires, mosquitoes and in-laws."

But let's talk garlic ice cream for a moment. We stopped at Times Square Catering from Albany, NY for a cool taste of their homemade garlic ice cream and dare we say, life-altering deliciousness ensued. To put this experience in perspective, this was not a little garlic added to some vanilla ice cream for gratuitous effect. Oh no, this was bold, in-your-face, roasted garlic goodness completely departing from the expectations usually associated with frozen dairy products. Truly amazing.

We also munched on chocolate-covered bacon from Bennington's own The Village Chocolate Shop. Okay, maybe there was no actual garlic in these sweet and salty tidbits, but how could we not try it?  An equally fabulous experience - tasted a bit like chocolate-covered caramel, although we're a little fuzzy on the culinary alchemy involved.

Interesting and diverse demonstrations ran both days, including Outdoor Cultivation and Foraging Skills, Growing a Pepper Garden in the North Country, All About Garlic and How to Make Homemade Garlic Powder, to name but a few.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Black Garlic Hard neck GarlicGarlic bulbs were offered for sale throughout the festival - too many varieties to count. These could be purchased for cooking or to plant in your own garden, if you are so inclined.

Throughout the day, kids rode the perimeter of the festival on Thomas the Train, squealed in delight watching jugglers and comedians, and burned off energy as they played in the various themed bounce houses. A colorfully-dressed man on stilts wandered the festival entertaining the crowd.  And if your kids are not fans of garlic, not to worry - there are plenty of non-garlic edibles to be had as well, like BBQ chicken, corn-on-the-cob and wood-fired pizza.

Undoubtedly one of the best run festivals in New England, they've pretty much thought of every convenience. When you arrive, you'll be directed to a parking space in a large field adjacent to the festival by smiling volunteers wielding colorful pool noodles. Tractors towing wagons shuttle people to and from the parking lot, although most people will find the festival within comfortable walking distance.

You'll find Porta-Potties galore, in the parking lot as well as at the festival, each with its own bottle of hand sanitizer. There are also restrooms inside the antique shop, although these are limited.

A first-aid station and an ambulance were also available on-site, just in case. There were really no lines to speak of, except maybe waiting a few minutes to buy your tickets or to get in and out of the parking lot, but traffic control was very efficient and everyone really quite pleasant.

There is nothing about a ride through the beautiful Vermont countryside, the friendly people you will meet or the entertainment you will enjoy to possibly regret making the trip to the Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival. Over the past 20 years, this event has grown into a destination unto itself and we can only imagine that next year will be even better.

Tips for Visiting the Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival
Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Camelot Village
This event is held rain or shine, so bring the appropriate accouterments - hats, shades, sunscreen, umbrellas or raincoats, depending on the forecast. There are some indoor areas as well as vendor tents, but essentially this is an outdoor event.
If you or a member of your party need special accommodations for parking, ask one of the parking attendants for assistance; you may be able to park closer to the event or if not, they will be able to facilitate drop off/pick-up. There are also shuttles to and from the parking lot (tractor and wagon), although the wagons are not readily wheelchair accessible.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Seven Barrels Vinegar Oil
Wear comfortable shoes - you will be parking in a mowed field and the festival is set up in an adjacent field. The ground is relatively level, but it's still a field.

It's a big festival, so expect to spend at least a couple of hours just to see everything and taste your way through.  If you partake of the educational demonstrations, stop for a nice lunch and maybe take in some of the entertainment, you could spend the entire day here.

All vendors take cash; some also take credit cards.  If you're going with cash, bring small bills to facilitate transactions.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_handpainted Garlic Onesie
Admission is paid at the door. Admission is $6 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under;  two-day passes are also available at a discount. There was a short line at the gate as people paid to get in, but it moved along quickly.

Numerous picnic tables and benches are available in the food court and near the stage so you can sit and rest or enjoy a meal with a touch of live music. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

King Richard's Renaissance Faire Offers Costumed Charm and Good Cheer

Jousting Challenge at Tournament Arena at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
The Jousting Challenge in the
tournament arena was a thrill!
New England Fall Events took a trip down 495 to celebrate the opening weekend of King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA. Held over eight weekends in September and October, it is a mainstay of New England fall festivities as it enters its 35th year.

Visit King Richard's Faire every weekend from September 3rd through October 23rd, 2016. Details here.

Set inside a forested expanse, the property is a dedicated space for this Renaissance festival. Crossing the threshold from the ticketing area into the faire-grounds, we were instantly transported to another world. We’d hardly taken ten steps before we were immersed by the trill of pipes and cheerful song. A dozen-plus performers dressed in period garb sang from the staircase of a Tudor-style building and most of the folks around us—customers? players?-- sang along heartily as well. The spirit and sense of community we felt was immediate, both qualities which persisted throughout the memorable day.

Wenches and Pub Songs Singing at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Performers and guests alike sing together
 We’d be remiss if we didn’t confess that this was our first “Ren Faire” experience so we honestly didn’t know what to expect or much about the world that we were walking into. It appears we were in the minority as most of the festival goers we saw very much did and it was a merry scene indeed.
Many of the faire’s attendees embrace the theme of the day employing various costumes, as they assumed characters and accents to add to the fun. With guests dressed in corsets and crowns, soldiers in armor, boots, archers, elves, and period lay-folk, we couldn’t tell the performers from the festival guests—a perk of the Renaissance Faire atmosphere.

Many of the guests wore lovingly hand- made costumes and it was common to see couples or whole families all dressed in character.  Others added just a small touch—elven ears or a set of fairy wings—to join in the spirit of the day.  Because dressing in character is so welcome and encouraged here, the faire also maintains a weapons policy just to be perfectly clear and all guests can feel comfortable.

Wood Nymph Village Atmosphere and period character at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
L to R: Wood Nymph, Atmosphere at King Richards' Faire, Character roaming the grounds

Upon entering the front gates we were handed a multi-purpose printed flyer detailing a fairground map, merchant list, menu offerings (with vegetarian and gluten-free designations), game options, and a schedule of the daily events and special performances. This flyer became our go-to guide to everything we could possibly need to know for our visit. We sat down with our flyer and circled the performances that caught our eye to make sure we didn’t miss a thing.

Wood Nymph at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Wood Nymph hiding among the trees
As we usually do, we wandered the grounds to gather a feel for the event. King Richard’s Faire is certainly not lacking in atmosphere or vibe in any way which makes it all the more fun for us first-timers. Being opening day, we witnessed plenty of mini reunions happening around us. One character (or was it a festival guest?) would spot another person across the glen and they’d run towards one another to embrace and ask (in character of course!) how their year has been.

We understood right away that King Richard’s Faire was very much an annual event for folks in attendance and most likely has been a place where special friendships have been forged through the years. Owing to this, the festival maintains a very intimate feel—not just in the magical setting of the sun spotted woods but in the familiarity and love between the festival goers and performers.

The setting of the faire is somewhat majestic in its own right. The entire fairground is festooned with banners and flags, the “cottages” and other buildings all designed in sturdy Tudor-style. If you want to buy “fur” stoles, hand-spun pottery, pewter goblets, embroidered capes, custom-crafted armor, elegant corsets, or leather goods you will find them sold along York Way, Royale Way, King’s Way, and Lancaster Lane. 
The goods are sold in proper buildings fitting the theme—a detail which adds much to the atmosphere and offers a sense of permanence and realism.

The attention to detail is what immerses you at King Richard’s Faire and why it’s so terrifically fun. Sure, there are plenty of inconsistencies to the time period such as selling French fries but if you’re going to do it, why not list them as “French Fryes” which they do. An there are a fair number of more “traditional” menu items and heartier English fare such as the Queen’s Turkey Stew, Shepherd’s Pye, or you can try for classic Fishe n’ Chips, and the Lord’s Pigge Sandwich (BBQ pulled pork). They have honey mead if you’d like to go old school ‘Ren beverage or “Gluten Free Beere” for a modern innovation. It should go without saying that the ginormous turkey leg is the food of choice at King Richard’s with the requisite photo-eating-leg that follows suit.

Turkey Legs Mead Stew Beer and Food Tickets at at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
L to R: Theme inspired menu items, Food and beverage ticket booth, Giant turkey leg

The food vendors and other merchants dress in appropriately period-ish clothing though blessedly the food vendors skip employing an accent when taking your order. There are numerous vendors walking around selling flower headbands or roasted nuts and the colorful banners and giant sail cloths strung between the trees add to the festivities.

With nearly two dozen games featured in the Gaming Glen, there are endless ways to spend your time (and your money). What other festival invites you the chance to try your hand at axe- or knife-throwing? Archery was certainly the biggest draw with kids and adults lining up to land their quivers in the hay bales. Other games like “The Giant Strike” is a Ren-faire version of the familiar sledgehammer strength swing. It was as entertaining to watch people test their hand at these less familiar games as it was to play them.

Gaming Glen Archery Axe Throw Knife Throw at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
L to R: Knife Throwing challenge, Archery booth, Guest trying his hand at archery.

We took in as many performances as we could—Daniel Duke of Danger acrobat, the Torture Show, Great Cats of the World, Jacques Ze Whippeur, The Mud Show, the Maypole Dance, Draiku Aerial Show, and The Challenge of Champions—and there were even more that we couldn’t see in time. All of these scheduled shows and performances were free, take place multiple times throughout the day, and there are always a few shows taking place in any given minute.

Daniel Duke of Danger Acrobatics Torture Show Draiku Aerial Performers at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
L to R: Draku Aerial Show, Daniel Duke of Danger, The Torture Show

Jacques Ze Whippeur performance at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Jacques Ze Whippeur entertained
large crowds throughout the day. 
With additional roaming entertainment wherever we went—a drummer and guitarist over there, princesses singing over here—we were never far from action. There were swashbuckling sword shows, tightrope walkers, and musical comedy to boot. There was nowhere on the faire-grounds where we didn’t hear a performer entertaining the crowds, catch laughter at somebody’s antics, or startle at the rhythmic crack of Jacques Ze Whippeur’s whip.

Spontaneous moments of “village life” spring up when you least expect and without fanfare. The funeral march pulling a white-sheet wrapped “body” and followed by a Grim Reaper was a good example of quiet moments of daily life unfolding in any moment.

Maypole Dancers at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Moments from the joyful Maypole Dance

The maypole dance (see our video clip) was lively and the dancers invited the bystanders to join in the weave.  The wild cat demonstration by Oregon’s Great Cats World Park (see our video clip from their snow leopard demo) was both fascinating and very educational and judging from the crowd it drew and the oohs and ahhs they elicited from said crowd, it was a true highlight for many, including us.

Great Cats World Park Demonstration at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
The Great Cats World Park delivered an entertaining and educational demonstration for the festival goers

It goes without saying that the three daily jousting competitions are eagerly anticipated by all. Held at the top, middle, and end of the day, there’s a chance to catch a show at some point during your visit. The large tournament field is fenced in and there is plenty of room to stand for the show or lounge on the surrounding lawn as many do. There is much pomp and circumstance for this event with the emcee narrating play-by-play of the action.

Jousting Challenge at Tournament Arena at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
The Jousting Challenge in the Tournament Arena is one of the highlight of the faire

There are grand introductions of the competitors as the armored riders on their horses strut around the field to their starting corner. Costumed women pace outside of the fenced field cuing the spectators in applause and inviting each section to rally for their corner’s particular competitor.

Spectators are treated to a skill competition—riders throw spears into a target while their horse streaks across the field or wield a lance to thread a ring. The jousting re-enactment itself was neat to witness—would Sir Joseph best Don Metri? Does Sir Wilfred still have what it takes? The crowd thoroughly enjoyed this dusty event and it’s a classic experience to have at this festival.

Our visit to King Richard’s Faire was incredibly charming. The stunning weather made our trip all the more memorable and the dappled spots of sun streaming through the tall trees onto the cottages and stages will remain a lasting image for us from our time there. It’s a large scale festival—no shortage of production nor crowds-- but for us the experience retained a dreamy intimacy and community warmth. 

Some thoughts about attending  King Richard’s Faire with Kids
It should be said although we didn’t bring kids with us to this event in our advance research made us more than a little wary about whether this would be considered a kid-friendly event. It was unclear to us whether performances such titled the The Torture Show, Washing Well Wenches (billed as “wet, dirty women, good clean fun”), and pub sing-a-longs were lending itself to families even as they offered a designated kids area, kid games, and a “Princess Academy”. 

Jacobs Ladder Game at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Jacob's Ladder tested adults and kids
From a pure atmosphere perspective, kid-friendly food options, and number of activities designed especially for children, it has more than enough to keep your children very engaged throughout the day. The costumes everywhere are sure to enchant children and they’ll absorb the experience like a kind of magical, wooded, tech-free theme park.

Shows like the wild cats, magic show, and Princess-sing-along are free and will certainly hold their attention and interest. Games such as “King of the Log” where kids “battle” with pillows to stay on top of a slippery log or try to climb up an extended rope ladder without flipping over and fallings softy onto the hay. You'll find pony rides ($6) and face and body painting ($15-30), a critter catapult (6 critters for $3) a Swan Swing ($4) so you can expect to have your "extras" add up very quickly after a few games.

Mud Show Torture Show Draiku Aerial Dragon at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
L to R: Spitting a mouthful of mud at The Mud Show, Fire breathing at The Torture Show, Dragon at Draiku Aerial Show

Princess Sing-a-long at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Princess Sing-a-Long
One show we attended—The Mud Show—offered a verbal disclaimer at the start by announcing it was good bawdy fun and would have many adult jokes delivered with veiled references and double entendre (mostly of the sexual nature). They even said the kids would probably laugh along with everyone else even as they wouldn’t get the jokes—from what we witnessed it was a totally accurate assessment. While it is true that the double entendres and other intentionally low-brow jokes were genuinely obscure enough to go over the head of even the most precocious child, unless you were at The Mud Show at the very top, you’d never have heard that announcement. We didn’t see anything on their sign advising parents at-a-glance to help them make a judgment call as to which shows would be a good family-fit.

Family in Costume at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Father and son in matching skull capes
Due to scheduling we only caught parts of the very entertaining Jacques Ze Whippeur and, other than the suggestive nature of the names, nothing we heard or saw made this shows flat-out unsuitable for kids. Jacques Ze Whippeur gave a hilarious rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” while snapping his whip to keep rhythm. 

The Torture Show which featured traditional sideshow feats like fire breathing and inserting long needles through the skin—ouch! (middle schoolers would love this stuff.) came with a PG-13 rating on their event sign and they offer verbal disclaimers about the show content during the show as well.

Family in Costume at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Many families would dress up for the day
The Great Cats World Park Show was very kid-friendly but due to the nature of the performers (hello, predators!) the emcee did ask that small, wiggly children not sit in the first few rows and insisted that people not move from their seats while cats were on stage so as not to be mistaken for prey—and people absolutely listened—but the content held appeal for festival goers of every age. Here's our video clip from the Great Cats Tiger Demo.

If you are going with children and are unsure about the content of the shows consider stopping by the info booth as we’re confident they would happily make some recommendations for you.

Tips for visiting King Richard’s Faire
Wood nymph at King Richard's Faire Carver MA_New England Fall Events
Wood nymph at King Richard's Faire

  • Most of the events are in the shade and the sail cloths above picnic tables and stages offer additional coverage yet areas like the tournament field are full sun so consider sunscreen.
  • Performances are free—and there are plenty to see—but any games will cost you extra and adds up quickly.
  • Cash is the way to go here—you’ll need it to buy food tickets as plastic isn’t accepted (though an ATM is available for steep withdrawal surcharges). In fact, food vendors do not handle money transactions at all as they operate on a food ticket system which is a little inconvenient as the food ticket minimum (5) doesn’t typically line up with the prices of the food items.
  • Some food price samples were $4 for water, $8 for chowder or stew, $9 for Italian sausage or a BBQ Sandwich, $10 for chicken fingers and fries, $11 for a turkey leg. Tickets are $29/adult and $16/children (ages 4-11y) online.
  • You can buy tickets in advance online with plastic but tickets "at the gate" are CASH only!
  • We were thrilled that the giant parking lot featured different colored flags at the end of each row. It was a snap to find our car at the end of the day. Other festivals please take note!
  • There are many special themed events throughout the six weekends such as Vow Renewals Weekend, Game of Thrones Day, Prince and Princess Costume Contest, the Fairies and Pirates Costume Contest, and others.
  • The tournament arena can get quite dusty once the action is underway. Choose a lawn seat if you have any respiratory sensitivities.
  • Dress up! If you are even the tiniest bit inclined to add a cape, a crown, or don a corset, you’ll never find a more welcoming place to dress up than this one. The enthusiasm of the festival goers to dress up—even in a small way—add so much to the atmosphere of the event. We saw plenty of people carrying their own pewter goblets to sip from wherever they went.
  • If you look carefully, there are rather unconventional looking water fountains near the food “court” saving you a few bucks on a beverage. Bring your own (pewter) mug to fill up and take on the go!
  • Many of the featured performers will kindly ask for a gratuity if you enjoyed their show. These performers are playing their hearts out and are very entertaining. Pack some extra small bills to express your thanks.