Situated just inside Provo Canyon and surrounded by a forest on the brink of bursting into flaming fall colors, the Renaissance Faire was off to a good start simply in the chosen location of Mt. Timpanogos Park. The only setback was the limited parking offered there, which was largely occupied by staff and participants rather than guests.
That could have been forgiven had the staff done anything more than dress up to prepare for the event. However, the whole affair lacked authenticity to an embarrassing degree. Sprinkled with glaring anachronisms–glasses, wristwatches, chewing gum, the simple imperfections could have been forgiven had they been overshadowed with decent accents. The presence of a familiar Utah drawl invaded every corner of the event, dulling the crisp autumn air as it begged for Elizabethan authenticity in speech.
Each act of entertainers differed in audience reaction. There were a few that made me lower my camera and sadly walk away, but there were also those that legitimately captured my attention. For instance, representatives from Great Basin Wildlife Rescue, an organization that takes in injured birds of prey and nurses them back to health, were strolling around the park carrying live falcons on their wrists. While these birds were tethered to ensure they didn’t fly away, they weren’t injured and certainly added a layer of interest for the guests.
Though the kids seemed perfectly content to jump around on the bales of hay and stick each other with balloon swords, there were plenty of activities for them to engage in, most notably the life-size, pretend pirate ship on which they could climb and enjoy a game of make believe – at least, until Jugglenutz invaded.
Brent Jensen and Mark Nelson, a pair of costumed entertainers who call themselves Jugglenutz, were entertaining to watch in passing, but proved intensely annoying when they started following me around trying to make it into my photos. After my initial coverage of them, they seemed to grow hungrier for attention, culminating in a desperate attempt to climb onto the deck of the children’s pirate ship and disrupt their play, just to put yet more flying pins in front of my camera.
The main act seemed to be the Desert Gypsy Dance Co., a group of women who had prepared multiple belly dance routines for the enjoyment of the attendees. This act seemed to have put in the most effort both with their costumes and their act. They all glittered and jingled with beaded gypsy skirts and multicolored scarves, and moved with mesmerizing synchronization that drew crowds away from the displays of all other vendors and artisans.
A few actors from a guild called the House of Tudor came to present a royal front. The woman who played Queen Elizabeth sat imperiously on a throne watching the dancers and performers, flanked on either side by her attendants. Mysteriously, an actor dressed as a king made an appearance, missing the idea that if this was actually Queen Elizabeth’s reign, there wouldn’t have been a king at all, as Elizabeth never married. The actress didn’t seem to mind this. When asked who the princely man sitting in the chair to the right of her throne was, she responded, “My, uh, favorite,” with a fond pat on his knee.
To the left of the queen’s throne sat a brightly dressed court jester, one of UVU’s very own drama students, Robbie Pierce. It seemed to me that the people who had the most fun at the faire were the sponsors, those who walked around in costume trying to promote their respective organizations.
It was easy to picture the park packed with people dressed in fantastic costumes and enjoying themselves, but the guests seemed slow and sparse, mostly families who had dressed their daughters in Halloween princess costumes. I must allow that this is the first faire Utah Valley has done, so I can’t expect it to be perfect yet.
In coming years, there’s potential for real cultural immersion if the effort is taken. Those who attended this first year seemed mildly pleased for the most part, but unprepared to spend another $10 for next year’s tickets. This could become a smashing event, one die-hard Renaissance re-enactors revere and to which enthusiastic families flock.