Opening for the ages at Renaissance Faire

Jeff Odachowski, playing the Scottish knight, and Jason Avina, playing the Spanish knight, sword fight as part of the Royal Queen's Joust in the Tournament of Horses Arena during the Northern California Renaissance Faire.

Steve Mae, his wife, Cathy, and their son, Ian, were all smiles as they sat in the bleachers and waited for a tournament of knights to begin while wearing velvet cloaks, chain mail and other Renaissance era garb.
“That’s part of why we come,” said Steve Mae. “It’s a chance to wear a Halloween costume on a day that’s not Halloween.”
The family – including the youngest son, Alan, who was wearing a slightly out-of-context but very colorful Aztec costume – attended opening day of the Northern California Renaissance Faire on Saturday.
Residents from across California come to the faire at Casa de Fruta off Pacheco Pass in Hollister to dress up, drink and dwell upon another era.
While knights rode horses around the arena, Gilroy resident Kay Weeks watched intently. Her stallion, “Kaloo Seviba,” performed earlier in the day and was set to perform in the same arena several more times during opening weekend.
“He’s a little nervous today, but he did okay,” said Weeks, whose dusty cowboy boots peaked beneath a purple skirt with sequins, which had once been a belly dancing skirt before it was adapted to fit the themes of the faire.
Beside her, grandson Trevor Goodell, 9, took in the scene, his light blond hair a stark contrast to his black vest and light blue pants. Weeks asked him what Goodell liked about the faire, and he beamed and gestured to the arena where men on horseback fought with lances.
“Jousters,” Weeks confirmed. “He loves the jousting.”
The faire, which runs for five weekends, allows visitors to walk alongside more than 300 actors and to learn old-fashioned arts such as wax candle dipping, hair braiding and the proper way to throw a javelin and an ax. The shops in between the event’s seven stages sell beaded hat pins, hand-made leather shoes, wooden swords and vials of “fairy dust” that look suspiciously like glitter.
By the time a group of faire attendees gathered underneath a canopy of rainbow-colored scarves to see the Broon Show, the temperature was heating up to a day of warm weather that later reached the low 90s. As Broon, the main entertainer, juggled and swallowed fire, Falon Wallace, 32, and her husband Joseph Thompson, 33, sat close and she held a tan paper umbrella above their heads.
“It’s always warm,” said Wallace with a smile.
“It’s hella warm every time we come here,” Thompson said. “Last year I came – I thought I was gonna die three hours in but this year’s actually better.”
The couple drove about three hours from the Sonoma area and spent the night in Hollister before heading to the festival.
“I really like the ambiance,” Wallace said.
“Everyone’s in character,” added Thompson.
And then, of course there was the food. He was particularly fond of the meat pies, which are a “taste of home” since he is from Britain, he said. Not far from where the pair watched the Broon show, the food court offered the classic festival favorite: giant turkey legs, which sell at $11 each.
“It’s good,” said first-time faire attendee Anna Nicholson, 16, as she chomped into a turkey leg while wearing a floor-length silk, red dress. “It’s hard to eat but it’s delicious.”
“It’s large,” said her friend, Matthew Primavera, 16, as he bit into a second drumstick.
Personnel at the first aid tent inside the park declined to share the types of incidents they responded to, but there was at least one. Faire attendee Audrey Peterson heard the accident but did not see it. A woman lost her balance in the parking lot and fell backward so that her head struck the metal rim of a sport utility vehicle’s tire, she said.
Peterson’s husband saw it, too.
“We’ve been coming for several years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Audrey’s husband, John Peterson.
Inside the faire gates, though, the festivities continued. The Queen’s Royal Joust started at 3 p.m. and knights took to horseback again to try their hands at “unhorsing” an opponent by splintering their lance on the enemy’s shield. The crowd cheered on the knights, finally letting out the famous cry of the festival: Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Renaissance Faire weekend themes:
Sept. 20, 21: Celtic Gathering. The faire will be flooded with Celtic music and groups. It’s also “Public Service Recognition Weekend,” so those that serve the state, county and local government in jobs such as teachers, police officers and firefighters can purchase two general admission tickets for $35 instead of $50.
Sept. 27, 28: Pirate Invasion. A band of pirates invades the faire’s Willingtown village. It’s also “Student Savings Weekend,” where those with student IDs can purchase two general admission tickets for $35 instead of $50.
Oct. 4, 5: Oktoberfest. Saturday also marks the annual historical costume contest, where attendees will parade their best 16th and 17th century apparel at 3:30 p.m. on the Centre Stage in the Food Court. It’s also “Military Appreciation Weekend,” so active military, military families and veterans can purchase two general admission tickets for $35 instead of $50.
Oct. 11, 12: Fantasy. Fairies and other mystical creatures descend on the town for the weekend. There is a fantasy costume contest at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Centre Stage in the Food Court.
Faire details:
The Northern California Renaissance Faire runs every Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 13 through Oct. 12 at Casa de Fruta on Pacheco Pass off Highway 152 in Hollister. To purchase tickets or get more information, go to the faire’s website:

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