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Renaissance

Three weekends running the gamut of medieval revelry

Knights on horseback entertain throngs of revelers at the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire. Photo credit: Chris Yetter

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In the past 10 years or so, nerd culture has penetrated the furthest reaches of the greater pop cultural landscape, bringing an end to the decades-long notion that being obsessed with science fiction, comic books, fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon, or any other niche interest is anything to be mocked. Nerds have inherited the earth, ensuring - at least, for the foreseeable future - that we will continue to be inundated with entertainments primarily drawing from superheroes or Star Wars. Such is the reality when the people with money finally open their eyes to the most passionate communities in the world.

And still, one activity that remains a relatively niche one even in this new era of nerd-run culture remains the renaissance faire. Though perceptions may be changing, there is still something fairly subversive about the concept of assembling en masse in a field for a weekend to celebrate medieval aesthetics and flamboyant pirate antics. For some, hanging out with fairies, trolls, knights, dragons and other magical elements is a bridge too far into the world of nerdiness.

If you're one of those people who would feel a little too silly dressing up in renaissance attire and attending one of these events, for one thing, dressing up in costume is optional, but you're also just plain missing out on what is really a fun, goofy thing - as the upcoming Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire can surely attest. Over three weekends in August, the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire will be covering the full Venn diagram of renaissance faire interests: the first weekend will focus on pirates, the second on medieval fantasy (here come the unicorns and dragons), and the third will close out the faire with what they are dubbing "Her Majesty's Royal Masquerade" - so masks and extravagant costumes are encouraged.

Attendants of renaissance faires differ in their enthusiasm for capturing verisimilitude, with some just showing up to observe the festivities as a sort of sightseeing trip, and others very seriously getting into character, only reverting back to their everyday selves at the end of the event - it can be an exercise in futility to talk to some of these people about modern comforts, even Game of Thrones. Where you might fall on that spectrum is up to you, although I might give it a go in full-on character, provided my vocabulary doesn't fail me with all the thees and thous and thines.

In addition to a bounty of merchants on hand to sell you a wide variety of medieval kitsch, hand-crafted armor and flagons, and period-accurate attire, there will also be a number of performers running the gamut of ancient entertainments: raucous Celtic music from BOWI, North African dancing from Benet al Sahraa, pirate theatrics from the Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries, sideshow madness from Broon, comedic prestidigitation from Master Payne's Magykes, and many more acts ranging from family-friendly to more adult content.

As niche as a renaissance faire may still be, there's something for everyone at the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire, even if tights and swords still aren't quite your thing. If I were you, though, I'd give in to the revelry.

Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire, Aug. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., The Kelley Farm, 20021 Sumner-Buckley Highway, Bonney Lake, www.washingtonfaire.com

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