The faire queen

Thousands head to the Renaissance Faire at Casa de Fruta on opening weekend

Performers at the Northern California Renaissance Faire put on stage shows for families and adults-only at the landmark event at Casa De Fruta in Hollister. The Faire runs each weekend until October 15.

Crowds of spectators lined the entrance to the Northern California Renaissance Faire at Casa de Fruta Saturday as a parade of costumed players announced the coming of the queen.

“We are Elizabethan so we have a queen,” said Anita Geleynse, in full period dress. “Others are Tudor so they have King Henry.”

It was the first day of the five-weekend affair and people were ready.

“It does embody me, I am this creature,” said Glade, a woodland creature of the forest as he stood picturesquely, strumming his lyre, a hoard of noblemen, peasants, knights, wenches and fair ladies moving past him. “There are always such joyous people wandering about in festive spirits. I like to see everything that is going on. There is always such hustle and bustle in the village while the Queen is visiting.”

The village of Willingtown, which is under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I, the English monarch behind such hits as the Spanish Armada and the execution of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, is a maze of vendors, performance venues, food stalls and period games.

“There are mongers selling food, puritans trying to convert you to their beliefs—lots of different people,” said Geleynse. “Willingtown is a small village and we are honored to have the queen coming.”

Many of the morning’s spectators are in full period dress or like Glade, depicting a fantasy. And if they did not arrive that way, there are costumes to rent and buy inside.

“He’s an Italian tradesman,” said Dave Held, a San Jose resident who ventured to the Faire with his friend, James Williams.

“This is a pleasure faire so you can let loose,” said Held, who has been attending the Renaissance Faire at Casa de Fruta since 2003. “Unlike an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event where you are this role and you have to stay in character. Here you get to relax. It’s a nice escape and good to get away and do something different and immerse yourself. I even met my wife at one of these.”

The Northern California Renaissance Faire is the only one of its kind that is owned and operated by its merchants and performers.

The Faire is spread across 21 acres and it took nearly a month for the area to be transformed into a Renaissance Village, with 68 specialty vendors, nine stages of live entertainment and over 600 actors, including Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.

“The atmosphere, the beer, the people, it’s just a great time,” said Williams.

Stage shows are divided into family-friendly and adults only and spectators can get their hair braided, purchase a flower garland, ride a flying sofa pushed by long-haired gentlemen who resemble pirates and gorge on meat pies – among other delights.

“I have a high level stress job and it’s an escape,” said Geleynse. “I can put all that aside for the weekend and just be somebody else. I love it.”

The Renaissance has a particular resonance for rare book collector, Steven Whitehead. He brought some of his collection of 16th century books, including a history of the British Isles printed in 1577 and a mass book in Latin from France.

“It was an exciting time of scholarship and knowledge. Book printing was a relatively new thing,” said Whitehead. “I think we have this idea that earlier centuries were not very sophisticated and yet they really were. Sure, they didn’t have electricity but some say a highly educated person from the Renaissance was more highly educated than people coming out of universities today. They knew multiple languages and a lot about history. There were a lot of very knowledgeable people during this period doing a lot of extraordinary things.”

Northern California Renaissance Faire runs every weekend through October 15 at Casa de Fruta in Hollister.  

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