As a former college student of the 1960´s, the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the words ‘Renaissance Fair’ are the lyrics and melody of Simon and Garfunkel´s ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.’ This was one of the most beautiful songs from the flower child era, with an enchanting first verse: “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.”
My imagination races in every direction with wonderment about Scarborough Fair… Where is it? What is it? Does the Fair have the most beautiful perfume of fragrant herbs and spices?
The mystery evoked by the lyrics speaks to the power of the bazaar, the fair, the festival. The tradition of the annual Fair dates back to the pre-industrial age of farmsteads and crofters, where people would bring in their specialty products to trade and barter. These fairs became ritualized, often tied into church festivals, and provided the opportunity for small-scale farmers and craftsmen to socialize and trade. The participants of the fair became an important part of medieval life, and their descendants are seen today in the Renaissance Fairs that have become a part of American life.
If you have not attended one of these Fairs, you absolutely must as soon as possible. Fortunately the Santa Fe Renaissance Fair is on the very near horizon, and there are many year-round throughout the country – here is a calendar of nationwide events. Renaissance Fairs are celebrations and gatherings with a strong arts and crafts theme – with food, drink and music reminiscent of an imaginary Medieval Fair, incorporating elements of the historic and the fantastic. It is a thrilling sight: flags, bells and banners swirl around strolling entertainers who bring a light-hearted, mystical and lyrical spirit to the free-flowing energy. It is impossible not to be swept into the spontaneity and excitement these events create.
The appeal of these fairs are best described by writer Neil Steinberg, who said: “If theme parks, with their pasteboard main streets, reek of a bland, safe, homogenized white-bread America, a Renaissance Fair is at the other end of the social spectrum, a whiff of the occult, a flash of danger and a hint of the erotic. Here you can throw axes. Here, there are more beer and bosoms than you´ll find in all of Disney World.” … I myself can imagine a Gypsy camp in Eastern Europe centuries ago as another image to add to the moving tapestry of my impressions of these Fairs…
I hope this blog post may entice you to experience the Santa Fe Renaissance Fair at El Rancho de las Golondrinas this September 20th-21st, as the lyrics of ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ once enticed me.