Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bunratty Renaissance Faire

We attended the Bunratty medieval faire Saturday, 30 June. We didn't like the weather down here, but my contact in the park said "come on up" so we did. The day was actually very nice, even though the national weather service was calling for winter-like rains. We took the dogs with us and they loved it. We had a really good day in the park. I just wish I could say the medieval faire part of it was.

Basically, this is how it went. They opened a cattle pasture at the back of the park, roped part of it off for a medieval battle and had a few "ye olde tents" around the perimeter of the field, which included a livestock area with various hunting birds, a fox, hedgehogs, Irish hare, pigs and a couple Irish Wolfhounds. The rest of the space was for walking around...mostly spectators. Because of the numbers of spectators and the level battle ground, there wasn't really anywhere to see the battle unless you were at the front ropes. The performance lasted all of about 15 minutes.

The tents were all privately owned by the performers and doubled as changing rooms and sleeping tents at night. Some tents were also open for trade. There was someone there repairing armor and another chainmail, another selling jewelry, another selling wooden kiddie size swords and shields, another tent open for displaying authentic recreations of weapons and garments, etc. They weren't big selling areas...nothing much bigger than a standard card table, but the wares and trades were interesting.

And yes, there were wet cow patties all over the field. Ireland has gotten a lot of rain in the last couple weeks and Friday night there was one heck of a downpour in the Shannon region so everything was pretty soggy.

There were supposed to be tents set up at the castle itself, but there was nothing there. The only place the medieval stuff was happening was in the cattle field at the battle. The cattle field was so far back in the park it almost wasn't part of the park, and a long walk to get to for such a short program. I think we spent about an hour overall in that area, but performers were scattered all over the park sightseeing and eating...then the big battle, followed by loads of photo ops for parents to get their kids' pictured with the performers. Then we looked at some of the tents displaying their wares and looked at the animal area. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the park, looking in some of the cottages, having lunch in the tea room and fending off lonely tourists who wanted to grope the dogs. OK, so the dogs loved it =-)

Anyway, I wasn't expecting anything big and spectacular, but I was expecting more than what was there, to be honest. There weren't any horses whatsoever actually. No royalty, no cooking demos, no crafts people demonstrating, none of the stuff one would usually expect at a faire. Really strange that Bunratty would advertise such an event then have the performers only stage a short mock battle...between the O'Brien and the Fitzgerald clans...and to have the Fitzgerald's win....incidentally, the O'Brien's once ruled the Shannon region and owned Bunratty Castle, so it seemed fairly insulting to me that the park would allow the Fitzgerald's to kick the butts of the O'Brien's on O'Brien soil.

And don't get me started on the amour and weaponry. It all may be recreations, but there were warriors from every era all fighting together. Some participants weren't even wearing all the gear from one era, but bits and pieces from all of the medieval years and just wore what they liked. There were guys in full face buckets to beanie caps. One guy wore a helmet so new it was as shiny as if it had just come out of a box...of Star Wars gear! Looked just like a chrome Darth Vadar helmet.

As for swords, one guy had a sword that was supposed to be a type of broad sword but the blade was wavy from hilt to tip. I've only seen daggers like that, but I'm not sure either are authentic recreations.

The group performing were all part of the Fingal Living History Society who were down from the Dublin area for the weekend. This group is similar to the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) who put on a really authentic event that includes demonstrations of many of the traditional crafts such as spinning and weaving, cooking demos, jewelry making and other "need to know to survive" crafts and chores. And yes, battles, often including jousts and more than just two sides battling. They're run like a medieval tournament event with everything that goes along with it.

Traditional Ren Faires allow spectators to join in the fun if they wish, including renting costumes and at least participating in gaming. But the one at Bunratty was purely spectator-only, which made the overall
experience very bland.

We did have a lovely day over all though. What we did see at the battle was pretty OK. Not brilliant, but entertaining. But unless they organizers put a little more backbone into the next event, we'll probably give it a miss.

Below are a few more pictures just for fun. Enjoy!!