I LIKE BIG MOUNTAINS

by Paul Maraschiello

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I love BIG mountains . . . mountains of all kinds. Some of my favorite mountains can be found in Maryland, just outside of Annapolis and the best time to see them is in late summer and the early fall. You may not be able to ski on these mountains but they are beautiful and there are lots of them.



I have to admit, these mountains are some of my favorite peaks. One of the nice things about these mountains is that when you fall (and I have fallen for a few them), you seldom break your leg, although I have broken my heart over some of them. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is an excellent place to enjoy the splendor of the views that these peaks offer. Now, views of these peaks and valleys are not all that the Maryland Renaissance Festival has to offer but they are one of the main attractions for me. There are also a lot of good-looking women that attend the Festival.



For many years, I was an actor at this event, hence my appreciation of the scenery and the sights. The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs from mid-August until mid-October and is one of the largest and best Ren Fairs in American. If you think you would enjoy a little trip back in time, this could be just the thing for you. It is not only an event for men, gals who like men in tights and kilts, and those that long for a more chivalrous era will really like what this event has to offer. If you girls would like to see what it feels like to have a man kiss your hand and bow as you pass while uttering phrases like, "Good day to thee fair maiden," you'll love the Renaissance Festival. The guys will appreciate the jousting, sword-fighting, feasting, drinking and the beautiful women. And remember men, always take the time to stop and smell the roses.



With similar events happening at ski areas, I thought I'd give you a little look at a renaissance festival that I know quite well. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is one of the biggest and best in the country.



The main event at this Ren Fair is the joust. This is a contest where knights on horseback, in full armor compete with lance and shield, sword and buckler or mace. The combatants are cheered on by crowds of onlookers and you gets the feeling of really being at one of these mediaeval tests of skill. The feeling is enhanced by the fact that many of the patrons also get dresses up in period costume. There are folks who spend a small fortune do bedeck themselves in the finery of the Court of King Henry VIII. There are people who also attain the same effect and spend a lot less money by being creative and having little luck at the thrift shop.



All a lady needs is a long skirt and a peasant blouse to dress in the correct attire. An old floor-length gown resurrected from the Goodwill or the back of a closet can transform a 21st century woman into a fine lady of the Middle Ages. For the men, it is just as easy. A pair of long johns and a sixties- era shirt, boots and belt can change a Wall St. broker into one of Robin Hood's merry men or you can become a fantasy figure. An old kilt from the thrift shop can tun you into one of the men from Braveheart for a day. And as everyone knows, it takes a REAL man to wear a kilt. I find that I can meet more women in a kilt in a day than I can meet in a month in a suit and tie AND they ask the most interesting questions. So, to satisfy the ladies curiosity, it's true, I wear nothing beneath my kilt that I wasn't born with. Only now, it's much BIGGER.



Let your imagination run wild because anything goes at a renaissance festival. If you fancy yourself the Amazon warrior type or bawdy wench, go with it and have fun. If you happen to have an old suit of chain mail and armor left over from your SCA days, put it on, grab your helmet and come out and play. You can frock yourself and dress like Friar Tuck or put on a long dress and come as Lady MacBeth. If you are a muscle man, hop into your loin-cloth and come as Conan the Barbarian or one of his slave women. Knights in armor are as welcome as Vikings. They even let Irishmen in, even though they are more interested in drinking and fighting.



Once you are dressed for the part, there are a lot of other things to see and do. There are a number of stages set up on the 125 acres of woods and fields that are the site of the Maryland Renaissance Festival and many acts to fill them. There are sword fighting acts, magicians, sword swallowers, fire eaters, singers, musicians, comedians, mimes and other entertainers on stage and wandering around the realm. There are games, fortune tellers, dancers, story-tellers, 40+ musical acts, human chess games, pony rides and elephant rides, and over 130 craft vendors selling everything from tapestries to swords and armor. A lady worrier can pick up a brass bra or a gown fit for a queen. You can even rent the appropriate garb for a day. There are hand-blown glass, jewelry, hand-painted shields and even hand-crafted furniture fit to grace the halls of a castle, to mention a few of the items that are available from these artisans. Not to mention a fine selection of weapons.



With four pubs that feature entertainment and five beer stands, a Lord or Lady can enjoy a goblet of mead or wine or choose from an assortment of fine beers and ales to wash the dust of their pilgrimage from their throats. At renaissance festivals, the bar maids have a fun place to keep tips and placing a tip in the proper place is one of my favorite activities. "It's GOOD to bee the King," to quote Mel Brooks.



A nave or nobleman can find all kinds of good things to eat at the fair. If you like to play Henry the VIII, there area large turkey legs, BBQ ribs, and other tasty items that can be eaten in 16th century style. The cuisine includes English, Italian, Polish, German, Mexican, sea food, soups, salads, deserts, and nuts which can be obtained from 43 vendors located in various areas around the fair grounds.



Some of the many novel attractions of the Ren Fest include: archery, ax throwing, dunk-a-wench, wall climbing, and other tests of skill. Period music abounds with performances by madrigal singing groups, bawdy wenches, the Pirates, minstrels, and the crowd always goes wild when the Scottish Rogues play the bag pipes. When the Rogues play, I usually perform the Sword Dance. Often, there are other dancers who do the Highland Fling, Hornpipe and Irish step-dancing. Sometimes, belly-dancers will even be enthralled by the sound of the pipes and shake their booty to ancient beats. I can't resist the sound of the pipes they invoke memories of my mother who was born in Scotland and came to America when she was only nine years old.



Not only do I like to dance, I also like to sing and there are many groups that play traditional drinking songs where the audience is invited to participate. So, if you enjoy drinking and singing in pubs, you will have a great time at a renaissance festival.

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