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Also prominent are games. Throngs of men line up to prove their prowess throwing very real axes, knives and throwing stars into wooden targets. The prize: honorary knighthood, and probably some short-lived bragging rights. Archery features as well, offering everyone the opportunity to discover how easy it is to really, really suck at archery.
Alongside the costumes, revelry and libations, one of the biggest reasons to hit up Renaissance Faires are the artisans. Painters, weavers, blacksmiths, seamstresses and other specialty craftspeople come from all over to sell their wares amid a concentration of their target audiences. There's some genuinely unique, impressive stuff to be found - old-timey leather boots and gloves, blown glass, family crests, and so on. A small girl, dressed as a witch and with eyes the size of saucers, inspects an assortment of "Magic Crystals." Going by the jewelry, the older woman browsing alongside her might well be the real deal.
But the craftsmen who draw the most attention, of course, are the weaponsmiths. I count three separate installations this year, each one constantly busy. These guys are the real thing, professionals pounding their wares out of real steel with real fire and laying the finished pieces out for display. Every year the scene is the same - a constant swarm of boys gawking at the REAL METAL SWORDS (and knives, and daggers, and axes,) laid out that they could TOTALLY ACTUALLY BUY ... and the also constant swarm of moms repeating "Absolutely not!" At one, I see a group of young men with impressive beer staffs react with almost preposterous enthusiasm and a cacophony of "Dude!" "Sick!" and "Yo!" arrangements when the smith produces a chain mace. The smith at another looks more medieval as himself than almost any of the cosplayers do - shirtless, bearded, barrel-chested, polishing the edge of a truly mighty battle axe. "This man," I think to myself, "likely has very strong feelings about the impending Thor movie."
At the end of the day, I'm sad to leave in a manner I dimly remember feeling when leaving parks or outings as a kid. I could easily stay longer, were they open longer - drink more beer, throw more axes, ogle more elven maidens. I resist the temptation to purchase one of those glorious swords, my hand stayed only by the specter of trying to explain its presence to a traffic cop while driving back through Boston (and the unlikelihood of being able to claim it as a business expense).
I'm not sure what it says that I'm so at home in what amounts to a strange hybrid of biker rally, historical recreation and comic convention, but I don't care.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.