Sunday, October 12, 2014

The 2014 Texas Renaissance Festival Season Has Begun! Huzzah!

Hear ye, hear ye!  And all that old-tyme-y-sounding stuff. The 2014 Texas Renaissance Festival began this weekend in Todd Mission, Texas, located just north of Houston and west of Conroe.

According to the festival's marketing materials, this is largest and oldest renaissance festival in the United States and this year they're celebrating their 40th anniversary.  As such there have been ticket specials and giveaways throughout the year. Our tickets for this weekend were comp'd because we attended Compicpalooza earlier in the year.  It's been a rainy weekend so the temperatures were mostly pleasant even if the ground was soggy all around.

Visitors are greeted just inside the gate by Sholo the Nubian. His Shakespearean reading show at the Barbarian Inn is fabulous.
Most people associate ren fests with turkey legs and things on a stick.  This festival is no different, however there is so much more available.  Yesterday I covered most, but not all of the festival and will share some of my finds with you here.  The festival is loosely divided into a number of themed areas.  There's a Polish area, a German area, a French-creole area, a Pirate area, a Barbarian area, an English area, a Greek area, a Spanish area, an Italian area, and Sherwood Forest, an area with a variety of games to play and shade trees.

Fajitas aplenty.

Delicious crepes.  Available in savory (salads) or sweet (nutella with strawberries and bananas).
The Polish area features a Polish pub, restaurant, and performance stage. This is where Iris & Rose perform, as well as Arthur Greenleaf Holmes. Both acts are PG-13. 

The Lovely Spouse went easy on the carbs and got Golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with meat and rice) and deep fried bacon on a stick. 
I tried the deep fried perogis on a stick.  Perogi are kind of like ravioli that are then sauted in onions.  These were filled with potatoes and cheese then deep fried.  I like the crispy texture along with the perogi awesomeness. 

The Polish pub has all the regular beer and wine selections as well as real Polish mead, that's actually quite tasty.  Staff at both the pub and the restaurant speak Polish in addition to English, so you can order in either language. 
The Polish section has other options if golabki and perogi aren't your thing.

Elsewhere in the faire there's a coffee shop that also serves mead and has a selection of cigars.

A variety of selections in the English section.

In case you're wandering the festival grounds and wondering where the butter is.  Here. Here it is.

Every ren fest has to have a centralized pub area for meeting up with friends and instigating shenanigans. This one is the Sea Devil Tavern. 
At the Sea Devil Tavern.
In the Spanish area you can find BBQ and a place to sit and eat it.

More options in the Spanish area.

The coconut shrimp were served with a spicy orange marmalade that was quite exceptional. 

Grilled sausage and other options in the German area.  There's also a sit-down restaurant in this section. 

Is it possible to have a ren fest without turkey legs?

Stir fried noodles in the Greek section. These were actually quite good and did not resemble the name, which was along the lines of "lasagna". 

Grilled meats and veggies in the Greek area.
Spanikopita,or spinach and cheese in a light phylo dough. As good as many of the ones I had in Greece.

Also in the Greek area, Christophe the Insulter performs. His show is rated R for obvious reasons. He will insult friends and family for a fee.

There are lighter options for people would would prefer fruit. This stand has fresh fruit, as well as chocolate dipped fruit.

Decisions, decisions.

Coconut water is delicious on a hot day, or even on a comfortable, overcast day.
Coconut water served still in the coconuts.  Machete service included in the charge. 
There is also a working brewery at the ren fair.  Brigadoon Brewery produces quality craft beer, currently served at faire with plans to expand for year round sales and service.

They serve their own in-house brewed beer in addition to a selection of Texas craft beer.
What else is there for food and drinks?  There's a mead bar, a couple of pubs and there are people who make and sell a variety of items from their shops. There are shows from all kinds of performers. And of course there's all kinds of shopping, shopping, shopping. Not to mention people watching.  There's much to see.

Lady McArthur sells jams, jellies, and salsas with one thing in common: peppers.  
Taste testing is encouraged.  
If you get frustrated by your companions, there's a way to release that frustration and beat the stuffing out of them. With boffers so no one gets hurt for realz.
The Fire, Whip Show is always entertaining.  

Even if wigs aren't your thing, you've got to admit these are pretty awesome.

Bird of prey shows are always awesome and educational.
New for this year, we found a Mead Hall.  

Lovely windows and a great space for photos.

Samples of mead are offered. Bottles are available for sale, and the mead is served as locations around the festival.

Dancing Dog Dairy offers lovely goat-milk soaps.  The milk comes from their adorable nubian miniature goats. Most weekends they have at least one goat with them at their shop, located in the median between the wind chimes and candles.

They also spin goat hair yarn died in a variety of colors.  They have a selection of completed knitted pieces for sale for those of us who can't knit.
For a little quiet time there are some beautiful gardens on site. 

Can't figure out where to begin?  That's understandable, it's a large festival.  Go to the parade. All the performers and shop keepers are represented. They'll give you an idea of what is available to help you plan your day. Sure, you could just go check this out on the festival website, but the parade is more fun.

Every ren fest must have a king and queen. Here they're decked out for the Octoberfest themed weekend.
What have I not covered?  Quite a lot, actually. It's a very large festival.  For foodies, I never covered the King's Feast, the Queen's Wine Tasting, or the Masquerade. These are extras for festival-goers and we didn't wish to bother with the extra time or expense. I also didn't cover the amazing apple dumplings, the terryaki chicken, and other finds you will see around the faire.  There are also shops out there selling some amazing art, crafts, and clothing.  They all deserve a look. I barely scratched the surface on the shows. There are many, many more that are iconic for this particular festival: Sound and Fury, The Ded Bob Show, Arsene Dupin, to name a few. There are also musicians, magicians, and other artists. There's a really cool shop that makes fine leather masks. There are a number of artisans making lovely jewelry, candles, and other crafts.  And the wind chimes are lovely.  You'll also find a jousting show, Royal Court performances, and a war horse. And, of course, you'll find groups of playtrons, or super-fans of the festival meeting in fabulous costumes.

If you go, here are a few tips:

1. Wear comfortable shoes.  If you go in costume, where comfortable boots.  It's a very large festival and those really cute pointy spiked heels will not feel so cute after a couple hours.  The surface is uneven and when it rains it gets muddy.

2. The ATM fees are $5.95. If you don't want to pay that fee bring lots of cash.  Most of the retailers accept credit and debit cards, but most of the food and drink vendors only accept cash.  Even though they say the amount charged is in pounds, they mean dollars. Don't worry about currency conversion.

3. If you get overheated (it's hot in Texas this time of year) go to the Prince of Wales pub.  It has air conditioning.

4.  If you're a beef lover go to the Prince of Wales pub for the prime rib trenchers.  They also have really good fish and chips (also available at the Sea Devil Tavern).

5. Take ID. You will be ID'd for alcohol purchases and every time you use a credit or debit card.

6. It's encouraged to get into the spirit of things (costumes are available for rent just outside the gate).  Please interact with the performers, various cast, and vendors.  But remember they are human beings.  No touching, grabbing, groping, or hugging without permission to do so. When in doubt, ask first.  If you want photos, it's generally nice thing to ask first.

7. Don't expect historical accuracy.  First off, Renaissance English does not sound like modern English. If you want accuracy find an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event.  Renaissance Festivals are welcome environments for creative people so expect to find whimsy and creative expression.  And fairies, storm troopers, Roman Centurians, Barbarians, Enterprise away teams, Steampunks, and people mixing genres. It's all in the spirit of fun.

8. Go early and stay late.  The festival doesn't close until the final three booms of the fireworks show. The shops are all open until those last 3 booms. The crowds clear out and the festival looks quite cool after dark.

9. Be patient with regards to parking.  If you must park close, and don't have a handicap tag on your vehicle, pony up the $10 for the priority parking.  When you arrive make sure you remember which row you're parked in - they're numbered.  Forgetting this will make it really hard to find your car at the end of the day, in the dark, without lights.

10. If you drink, designate a driver. Get home safely.


  1. Hmm, I had the spanikopita one year and wasn't impressed. I don't think it looked like that, though. Hopefully it's improved. I do generally like the gyros there.

    We're looking forward to trying more of the food this year.

  2. It was more authentic than I remember in previous years. I don't know if the vendor is different. If you go where it says "Noodles" in the Greek area you'll find the "lasagna" I mentioned.

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