People flock to the Doña Ana Arts Council’s Renaissance ArtsFaire for many reasons: to enjoy a day living in the past, to eat delicious food sold by area non-profit organizations, and to shop at dozens of booths that offer fine art, crafts, local food products, and much more. But what keeps them there for the day may well be the entertainment. The faire has multiple stages throughout the realm, including the main stage, Queen’s Court stage, Children’s Realm stage, Crimson Bear Court stage, plus jousting, battles, and the area where Robert the Ratcatcher (aka Bob Diven) reigns supreme with his “ratapault.”
Local musician Randy Granger has been performing at RenFaire for about a decade and for the past few years has also served as emcee at the main stage. He gives a plug for his stage, saying, “What I like about the main stage is that you can grab your lunch, sit on a hay bale, and take in the entire atmosphere of RenFaire. You can take in how fun and diverse it all is.”
The really big shows take place at the main stage, including Project in Motion; Odd Lab from El Paso, which Granger describes as acrobats and fire dancers in a high-energy Middle Eastern/Southwest fusion; the Royal Court, Empire Pipes and Drums, and the Society for Creative Anachronism; Las Cruces School of Dance, and much more.
Granger says that the entertainers work to fit in with the Renaissance theme, “We try to harken back to when those dancers, acrobats, and fire-throwers used to roam all over Europe and the Middle East bringing their act to every little town and village. We try to bring that in one little space. There is so much going on with jousting and the Children’s Realm, but I’d like to think that the stages are destinations people can stop and take in something unique that doesn’t take too long so they can go see something else. It’s a great way to spend a day and get all the entertainment they can. It’s still such a great value.”
The Crimson Bear Court is staffed by Enchantment Historical Productions, a non-profit that does historical entertainment. Treasurer and founding member Meghan Berver says, “We set up a court as part of our mission to provide entertainment and education about history.” The group is made up volunteers including educators, a doctoral candidate in history, and Berver, who has a master’s degree in history museum studies.
Those who visit the Crimson Bear Court can borrow props such as helmets to take their photos with costumed royalty, and kids can make paper shields or use a ping-pong ball cannon to knock down a “city” made of blocks. At 10:30 a.m. daily, the Mesilla Valley Dance Collective will perform in historically accurate Renaissance dance costumes. There will also b
e a fashion show of the “latest” Medieval attire at 11 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday and a costume contest for all ages at 1:30 p.m. both days. There are even prizes for the best costumes, and they’re hoping to have lots of entries this year since so many people attend the faire in amazing costumes.
The Crimson Bear Court contingent will venture out of their own realm to the main stage to perform a family-friendly musical comedy entitled, “The Wives and Times of Henry VIII.” Cory Gasparich, a master’s degree student in voice at NMSU, will perform as often-wed Henry the VIII. The play will be performed at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Server notes, “Because we’re doing Henry VIII, we’ll have six queens this year.” They’ll be in their court throughout the day when not performing in the play, waiting to take a photo with visitors.
Magician Chris Mitchell serves as the emcee in the Children’s Realm, which has entertainment especially for the younger visitors to the faire. Acts at that stage will include his magic, raptors from HawkQuest, dancers, and demonstrations by Amtgard, which is a group that will perform mock battles with especially non-lethal “weapons,” such as foam swords. You can even buy a foam sword from them at their booth and learn to stage your own safe battle. There will be numerous booths with of plenty of activities, crafts, and fun in the Children’s Realm for the youngsters, plus a petting zoo.
Of course, the ever-popular jousting tournaments will take place throughout the weekend, as well as heated battles, and Robert the Ratcatcher will be flinging the pesky vermin (actually rat-shaped beanbags) and pumpkins using his trebuchet, the “Ratapult”. Magellan the Dragon will be in his rightful place in the lake and visitors can take a ride in a Boy Scout-powered canoe to observe the mighty dragon even closer.
Granger might be a little biased when he says, “I think RenFaire is the crown jewel of our fall fiesta season. We get so many people coming out and it’s geared for every age. It puts a nice cap on all the other festivals of the season. It brings so many people together from other places. People come from all over to vend and perform at it. I’m always honored to be part of it because of the quality entertainment…and I always get a big turkey leg!”
There’s more than a day’s worth of fun to be had at the 46th Annual Renaissance ArtsFaire, so come for the food and shopping, but stay for the entertainment. Or, as Mitchell says, “Come for the entertainment, and stay for the food and shopping.”
Make your day at the faire stress-free by purchasing tickets in advance and by taking advantage of the free park and ride. “The Royal Carriage” will run between the southwest corner of the Mesilla Valley Mall and the faire starting an hour before, and ending an hour after the Faire each day. There is limited parking onsite at the park.
Cost for the event is $10 per person and children 12 and under are free. Advance tickets are two for $15 and available on- line or at all Pic Quik locations through November 3.
Make the weekend even more special by purchasing a VIP package: $60 includes all-access passes for two people, access to the VIP area at the Dragon’s Eye Tavern with refreshments and up-front views of the main stage, a special area to watch jousting, and preferred parking for one vehicle. A VIP pass for one person is $35.
Tickets and more information may be found by visiting the Doña Ana Arts Council office at 1740 Calle de Mercado, Suite B-D, in Mesilla, online at www.daarts.org or by calling (575) 523-6403.