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.


  1. Wonderful article and thank you for mentioning the Torture Show, however I do want to point out there IS a content disclaimer regarding it in the faire program, as well as on the stage sign, of PG-13. I also verbally mention it many times throughout the show. I'm sorry that you missed it, but I can assure your readers that it is there and is made known. Thanks again and I'm glad you enjoyed the festival!

    1. Thanks again for pointing that out Ses. We've made a few edits to the article to reflect what we missed! You do a terrific job and bring great energy to the Torture Show--it was a memorable day for us!

    2. Thank you so much for coming out and enjoying the festival. Also, thank you very much for the kind words. I'm glad you had a great time, as that's what it's all about. :-)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. What a thoughtful and comprehensive of the most detailed we've ever had! Kudos to you for doing your homework and capturing the spirit of King Richard's Faire. I agree with Ses' comment... but you did a really great job outlining what WAS kid-friendly, and I'm sure your readers appreciate the expert advice. We hope you come back again and again, and make it a tradition! We appreciate your support of the Realm very much.