Every weekend in August there is an opportunity to go back in time and saturate ones-self in a historic/fantasy style cultural experience. The Big Bear Renaissance Faire is located on a 4-acre site in historic Fawnskin, California. The site was once the Pederson’s Saw Mill, which operated from 1938-1965.
Each weekend is themed and the titles speak for themselves:
1. August 5th & 6th – Fairy Frolic
2. August 12th & 13th – Pirate Take Over
3. August 19th & 20th – Royal Purple Weekend
4. August 26th & 27th – Steampunk Weekend
My family and I chose to visit on Royal Purple Weekend. We arrived close to the noon hour so we would not miss the Jousters, whom have a few shows per day. As we approached, the sunlight promised a little heat and the trees rustled in the breeze, offering welcome shade. There were many cars and people rushing towards the entrance, even though they had opened a few hours earlier.
Right away a swashbuckling pirate welcomed my 8-year- old son with an accent and a surly smile, even before we entered the gates. He engaged in conversation that built expectancy of what was to come. With his hand, he ushered us towards the castle like gates where a pretty, long-skirted maiden gave us tickets with an alluring smile.
Upon entering, there were three gatekeepers dressed in authentic garb. They also smiled and joked affectionately—like this, too, was their favorite day and activity. My thought was: they clearly enjoy their role here…but then I was quickly distracted by the village atmosphere beyond them.
Brightly decorated vendors sold their wares and sang songs, interacting with the crowd. It was the marketplace of yesteryear! I felt like I was in a Disney movie or old King Arthur or Pirates tale! I was so spellbound that at first did not notice my husband and son’s sparkling eyes and entertained smiles. Shiny swords, elegant necklaces, hand-made clothing and purses, daggers, chalices, king and pirate flags, rings, dragon eggs, and more were at tables and in tents.
We approached a stage where mandolins and drums were being played and onlookers clapped and cheered. They invited us forward and we stood and celebrated the song, clapping to the beat. After the show, our feet led us through a Fairy Maze all decorated in turquoise and purple, under a lace archway, past a tiny fairy village—and here the adventure just began!
Another larger stage rose before us as our path divided. To our left I saw horses and jousters, and to our right a bawdy saloon girl shouted orders to a cook who served delicious smelling apple desserts with ice cream on top. Directly before us, the grand stage had flags waving and floating canvas or linen shade over wooden benches. Large flags and coats of arms toted the colors of different groups or houses. Two parrots and a pirate with a long beard and striped pants did a comedic routine on the stage that gave us all a belly laugh. The parrots were clearly spoiled and intelligent—so much so that we could not tell who truly gave the orders, the pirate or the birds.
Since the apple dessert was irresistible, we ordered one to share and the loud, bawdy servant girl did not disappoint. She cracked funny jokes and played the part with a wide grin and laughing eyes. The big man in the kitchen seemed to smile every time she shouted an order. It echoed into the crowd and caused many onlookers to see what it was about and join us for a snack. We saw some just came to the Ale Vendor for a tall cold beer, while others ordered the delicious looking sausages. What we did not see were any frowns! Everyone was wrapped up in the excitement of the day, drawn as we were to random spots to see what secrets they held.
Our next adventure was a game where we had to choose pirate eggs and see what was inside. My son won several dragon tokens with which he was able to purchase a prize he liked best. He chose a beautiful blue and clear crystal and some Golden Coins he called “good-luck charms.” In this district of the Faire, there were authentic rooms with layered cloths and furs, and game tables or puzzles—even a sunken ship building to explore.
The day led to evening, and after many shows and adventures, a few beers, and the purchase of a lovely necklace, we were winding down. There was just one last thing to see: The Lynx Show, featuring a magician and sword swallower that must not be ignored. Lynx brings humor for the adults and magical tricks to amaze the children. He is a true talent in his field that brings laughter and gasps as he swallows swords of an alarming length. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
As we retraced our steps back through time, we passed the swords and shields for sale and a fighter pulled my son aside and taught him how to shield a blow and swing a sword. A beautiful horse used in the jousting neighed, and the lady at the stand said they are rescues and all proceeds go to their care. I was moved greatly by this and purchased a sword and shield for my son in light of the very good cause.
As we passed through the gates and entered again our modern world with bustling people, cars, and cell phones, my son said to me, “Best day ever.” It truly was. I invite any visitor to our valley to embark on this Renaissance journey. Listen to the stories, play the games, eat the food, cheer on the knights, laugh at every opportunity, and bring home a souvenir. It will be an experience you and yours remember fondly for years to come!