Southern California has two Renaissance Faires. There is the big one — the granddaddy of all Ren Faires — in Irwindale (nee Devore nee Agoura). There there is a newer faire — Nottingham Festival (FB) — that started 5 years ago by some of the original participants, with the goal of being truer to the original ideas of the Faire than the granddaddy had become. We supported the kickstarter of Nottingham 5 years ago, and have been attending ever since. Today was opening day, and we just got back. So what did we think of this year’s Faire.
First, be aware that Nottingham is much much smaller. My guess would be ⅓rd the size — which fits right for the running time, people, vendors, and such. They simply don’t have the variety of the granddaddy, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. We just get through faster.
The folks behind Nottingham run a second faire at the same location on the heels of Nottingham: Tumbleweed Township, Tumbleweed — this will be its second year — is the old West (US) in the late 1800s. It is a time period that is a bit more accessible to many, and one that fits well with the Simi Valley location. Many of the vendors sell at Tumbleweed as well, changing their product mix as well. We went last year to Tumbleweed and enjoyed it quite a bit.
This year’s Faire was in the same site as the last three years, and the layout felt… comfortable. It was as if they had figured it out. There wasn’t too much walking. Stages were mostly accessible. It felt as if there were a few tweaks from last year, but it worked.
As for the other aspects of the Faire:
|Vendors||There was a good mix of vendors, from some of our favorites, some of our friends, and some we hadn’t seen before. We liked the pottery vendor and picked up some pieces, as well as signing up for Farm Fresh delivery. There were a number of good clothing and jewelry vendors that had stuff we liked, but didn’t have a need to purchase. Prices were good.|
|Food||There were a small number of food vendors. Prices were reasonable, with ale/beer at $6. Selection was a bit of a different issue. I look for what I can eat (healthy, no grease), and what my wife can eat (gluten-free), and our options were relatively limited. So it was OK for a small Faire, but could have been a little better.|
|Music||Music was surprisingly light this year. There were some groups we liked (Merry Wives), but they weren’t there opening day. There were less wandering groups of musicians and dancers than usual. There were less musical groups at stages.|
|Entertainment||There were some groups we liked from last year, but in general we didn’t find the stage shows and they didn’t have the grab factor walking by. This could just have been the opening day mix, because I know some of the group are good.|
|Education||/ They had the Masters Pavilion again — which is one of the hallmarks of this Festival, but they didn’t clearly indicate who would be there and when.|
|Enthusiasm||The folks here are super friendly. We weren’t even wearing that much garb (I was in a mix of RenFaire and Tumbleweed, as I though it would be cooler and might rain), and we got loads of compliments.|
|Layout||They’ve gotten the layout down, eliminating the problems of the first year or two.|
|Bad Costumes||We really only saw one bad costume, someone dressed as a hell-boy.|
Nottingham is doing a good job of growing at a slow place while not losing what makes it special. I look forward to next year and its further improvement.