King Richard's Faire '09: Fun, but for a tidy sum

This past weekend marked the opening of King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA. Most Renaissance faires can only dream of what King Richard’s has achieved: a permanent venue at an 80-acre wooded park in which they’ve built an expansive medieval village that must be seen to be believed. I attended the faire several times in my middle and high school years, and I decided to drop everything on Labor Day for the chance to find out if the festival is still as fun as I remembered.

Critics call King Richard’s generic, and they’re not wrong; the faire’s tried-and-true formula hasn’t changed much since I last attended. The $26 ticket price is steep, but the Faire provides activities for all ages. Some of the shows sound like they’re only for kids, but the magicians and jugglers manage to sneak in their share of jokes that only adults would get, leaving the kids none the wiser and the audience in stitches. Make sure to check out the Big Cat Show, and the jousts are also great fun as long as you manage to snatch a seat in the shade.

If you show up in jeans, you might feel left out, since most people try to dig up something a little more period to wear. If you have no limits on your spending, however, you could walk into the faire wearing civvies and walk out decked in full Renaissance regalia. Most of the outfits will cost you as much as a Gucci bag, but where else are you going to get a pair of cavalier boots that’ll really last you? (Insider tip: if you’re willing to wait, ask the merchants for their websites and you’ll find that they sell at the same items at lower prices when not at a faire.)

Be prepared to shell out for your lunch. There’s no food allowed inside the gates, and the food merchants take unfortunate advantage of this by jacking up prices. You’ll have to wrangle with food tickets, which are 50 cents each and can only be bought in increments of 10 (you’ll invariably have some left over). The restaurants serve well-made American-style meals, as well as Renaissance-era dishes if you prefer to be authentic. There’s no rule on the grounds about open containers, so you’ll want to swing by one of the many beer & wine carts and get yourself a little something.

When I last attended King Richard’s years ago, I remember running into actors left and right who would improv hilarious scenes for passers-by. This past weekend, I barely saw this happen at all. Either I’m unlucky, or King Richard has made some budget cuts. I also would have enjoyed seeing a more complex overall plot to the day, as other faires occasionally attempt to do. The King’s Joust devolved from impressive feats of horsemanship into a rousing swordfight in which the knights contested each others’ results, and I would have liked to see similar theatrics elsewhere. As it was, I made it through five hours of shop-hopping and sight-seeing before I got tired enough to head home, but if there had been a story to keep me interested, I would’ve stayed at the faire for a couple hours more to catch the ending.

King Richard's Faire takes place every Saturday and Sunday through October 25th, rain or shine. Doors open at 10:30 am and close at 6:00 pm.

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