chivalry all set at Willington Village
Hollister – Walking through the gates, one is transported back in time. Back to a time when knife throwing, fire eating and jousting were life style. Back to a time when romance and chivalry were common.
Beneath the pine, walnut and oak trees of the Casa de Fruta fields, the annual Renaissance Faire, opened weekends Sept. 9 through Oct. 15, is set in 1500s Wilington, once a small village in the English countryside. Through the dust, women with colorful dresses adorned with a tight bodice fanned themselves with large black feathers in one hand while holding full goblets in the other hand. Others wore pirate hats, bright red tights and long hair reflected the fashions of the time, and swords hung from their waists. Jesters juggled, merchants chanted, pirates yelled, and cheerful flutes, drums, and cow bells vibrated from the guilds that paraded through the dusty pathways.
Sarah Lopez, 24, of Gilroy, was startled after a relentless monger from a marching guild unexpectedly jumped out in front of her.
“It’s neat,” she said. “Looking at how they used to live, it’s a whole different little world.”
This six-week long faire has a theme for every weekend and is not just a faire, located at Casa de Fruta, but an array of theatrical productions. The first weekend’s theme, “The Invasion of the Pirates,” included pirates at every corner accompanied by the smell of wine, leather, and roasted turkey legs amid the yells of the pirate scavenger hunt.
Gilroy resident Liz Murillo was attending the festival for the second time.
“My cousins and I had a good time, the food actually brought us back,” Murillo said. “My son loves swords, so I just brought him back.”
People held huge roasted turkey legs and like barbarians ravenously ripped off pieces of meat. Fish and chips was served, meat pies, and traditional English sausage rolls as well. The most popular food was the turkey legs, 1,500 of which were sold Saturday.
Rosie Lopez, 28, of Gilroy, was fascinated by the energy of the visitors and participants.
“I noticed that everybody is really into it,” she said.
The cheering and booing from the jousting tournament was heard from afar, and Queen Elizabeth was called upon for important decisions in the arena. Armor anchored the knights onto their horses as they jousted and risked falling off their mounts. Brandon Roseblade, 50, of San Jose was fascinated by the jousting performance.
“On a scale of 0 to 100, I would probably say 110. I can’t imagine 4,000 pounds coming together at one time in one place,” he said as he rested on a hay stack.
It’s no surprise that the faire has grown 9 percent this year, said Hilary Laurie, public relations officer.
“We are the only faire in the country that is owned and operated by its own performers,” she said.
Though the faire has existed for more than 35 years under various ownership and management, this is Play Fair Productions’ third year running the popular event. They expect 65,000 people to enjoy the antics this year.
Play Faire is a group of dedicated actors, artisans, participants and vendors.
Prior to Play Faire’s ownership, the Renaissance Entertainment Corporation owned the faire and claimed that it was too costly to put on such a production, said Michael Gardner, marketing manager for the company. It costs about $2.5 million dollars to put the event on, and they take in about the same amount, he said.
“It’s not a money making process, everything we do is at a break even rate,” Gardner said.
Most of the actors have jobs, and they often don’t get paid for the volunteer time they put into the faire.
“The thing that they like about the faire is the fact that you are not who you are in real life,” Laurie said.
Many actors, such as the matchmaker Frances Farthingale, play their role well.
“They clamor for my services,” the self-appointed matchmaker boasted. She claimed to have “initiated some couples” and from between her breasts she pulled out a large tooth and claimed it belonged to her former husband, a common trend at the faire. Her husband’s face was carved onto the so-called tooth so she could remember what he looked like.
It is rare to have an up-to-date, modern conversation with performers because to them, at least on the weekends, they live in the Renaissance era.
“It’s a living history,” said Laurie. “It’s an experience.”
Betsy Avelar attends Gavilan College and is an intern at South Valley Newspapers. Reach her at 847-7216 or [email protected]