Going to the Renaissance Fair – Our Top Tips

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There’s no better place to kilt up! Here’s some hard-won knowledge to help you make the most of the Renaissance Fair!


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1.  Hydrate!

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Bottle-holder is a must!

Fancy a pint? Better make it a pint of H2O, first! Fairs and Festivals are great for tippling with beer, wine, mead, cider and other alcoholic beverages. However, these treats increase risk of dehydration. Match your alcohol intake with equal amounts of water.

Even if you aren’t drinking, staying hydrated is essential since most renaissance faires are open during the hottest months of the year. Fun fact: Heat prostration and dehydration are the most common reasons fair visitors need First Aid treatment. Be extra careful if you are in costume. You may get warmer than you expect in all those layers.


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2. Wear Worthy Shoes

At a large fair, it’s not uncommon to walk up to four miles or more. And that’s often over uneven dirt paths, gravel and rocks — not great for the feet.  To avoid fatigue, wear comfortable, supportive shoes.  At the very least, use closed-toe shoes to avoid mud, dust, twigs and the occasional food item dropped by some kid.

We have a video all about shoe choice and kilts.





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3. Read Maps and Schedules

There’s nothing more frustrating than missing out on a performance because you couldn’t find it, or it took longer than you expected to get to it. OR getting to the venue only to find a long line to get in.

This is why you want  map. Digital is fine, but a simple printed map and program schedule works well, too. Most faires hand them out at the front gate. A Con will provide you with one at registration. Other essential things a map tells you — where to find food vendors and restrooms!

Many Cons and larger events these days will also offer a downloadable schedule app which allows you to create a personal schedule for your day. These are a fantastic tool.


4. Know your “Privies”

Renn_Fair - Decorated-Porta-Potty-3.jpgPort-a-Potties … porta-johns … “The shrine of St. John of the Blue Waters” … you know ’em. You hate ‘em. Here are a couple of quick tips:

— Choose a unit farthest from the entrance to the privy area. It’s more likely to be clean because it is least used.

— Leave most of your stuff with your friends before you go in. Less contamination. Less fumbling. Less chance of dropping something.

— ALWAYS knock on the door before opening a unit. Most folks will turn the latch to Red. But not everyone does, especially kids.

— As a public service at camping events, consider bringing a glow stick on a string with you. Hang it in the privy. Now everyone has a nice night light that will help them avoid surprises in the dark.

How do you use a Port-a-potty in a kilt?


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5. Cash can still be king

Cons and Faires are TOTALLY about shopping. You will find art, home decor, jewelry, costume accessories, toys and collectibles, etc. etc. etc.

Best of all, you are often buying directly from the artist. However, though most vendors nowadays can use ‘Square’ and similar credit card tech, not all can. Bring cash for this, as well as for food and drinks. It’s just faster sometimes. Remember — at Renn Faires, many ale booths do not take plastic.

Cash is also nice to have if you have kids and want to give them the experience of making a purchase “by themselves”. If you like a band you hear, let your kid buy the CD from the band’s merch-person, who may be wandering the audience with a basket full of CDs.

Bring cash from home so you can avoid the line at the ATM and the fee.


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You can’t go wrong with a Highlander outfit in earth tones.

6. Kilting Up and Dressing Up

Dressing up can be one of the most fun parts of attending a fair or con. As a kilter, you have so many options! Everything from modern dress to historical Highlander to ancient Celt to fantasy hero and beyond. After all, we live in the age of the Kilted Stormtroopers and Kilted Darth Vader!

If you plan to dress in contemporary highland fashion, there’s plenty of options for hot weather.

If you want to make more costumey elements for your look, we recommend using natural fiber cloth as it will breath in the heat. Avoid wearing a lot of leather, which can get hot. An all-black outfit can also be challenging this way. Avoid rubber at all costs.

Natural materials are also important to consider when you shop for clothing at the fair. If the shirt you like is polyester, you will be miserable in it. Watch out for cheap import sporrans and belts as well.

Naturally, we hope you’ll consider buying one of our all-cotton Highland shirts or our cotton-linen blend Grandad shirts.

For more thoughts on what makes a good Celtic renn faire outfit, check out this video…



7. Shows and Concerts

Renn_Fair - anthony-moringello.pngRenn faire shows and concerts are very close and intimate. It’s the ancient natural connection between performers and audience, especially if there’s no micing or electronics involved. They can be very interactive with audience members sometimes becoming part of the show.

So, before you sit down to enjoy something, read signs and program descriptions. Some shows are intentionally bawdy, so you’ll want to know that beforehand if you have kids along. Don’t worry about being called up on stage — the performers will only really go after people who want to play along.

Be conscious of open space around the stage. Performers sometimes leave the stage to interact. And at concerts you can expect a lot of dancing going on at the edges or down in front of the stage. If you have mobility issues, you’ll want to be aware of this.

If you enjoyed a show, please buy something from the merchandise table set up by the band or leave a tip for the performers (someone may wander around with a collection basket).

The bands you will see are “working bands.” They do not have agents, staff or roadies. They do everything themselves the old-fashioned rough-and-tumble way. For some, this is their only income.

Faire performers such as acrobats, magicians and comedy troupes are usually paid less than minimum wage, or aren’t paid at all. So show your appreciation and help ensure these hard workers can continue to entertain. For an example of a great Faire band — check out our friends Cu Dubh!



8. Safety

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Photo Credit: Travel Addicts

Fairs, festivals, Cons and highland games are just like any public situation — you should be aware of your surroundings.

Keeping track of your belongings is never a bad idea. However, the main safety issue at these events is inappropriate behavior. Someone may have had a few drinks and get into your personal space, to put it mildly. If you feel someone is behaving in an inappropriate manner towards you or someone else, tell Security. If a security staff member is not obvious, mention the issue to a vendor or booth operator. They should be able to call in help.  The staff will all appreciate you helping them maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all patrons.

IMPORTANT: Not everyone wearing a costume is a faire employee!

Renn fairs (more so than other events) have something called “playtrons”. These are customers, usually season regulars, who dress up in costume and like to pretend they are part of the show; like they are playing in an RPG with the cast. Some are good friends of the cast and staff. Some most certainly are not. Often they are the ones causing behavior complaints because they can take things too far; trying to include patrons in their “game” who really aren’t into it. They are not trained actors, just enthusiasts who paid to get in like everyone else. Costume or no costume, if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, tell them to stop. Period. Then report them to Security.


9. Parking

For many outdoor events like the renn fair, parking is just a big dusty field. Some are more organized than others. The dust can be pretty intense, especially towards the end of the season. This “camouflage” can make finding your car again more challenging!

Renn_Fair - renn_carfinder.pngConsider downloading a “car finder” app for your phone. You can also take quick snapshots of the row you’re in and any landmarks. Sounds a bit silly, but after a long tiring day (and evening…) you want to get to your car ASAP.

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Actual parking field at the Maryland Renn Fair. Eep!


10. You’re going to have a blast!

Don’t stay in one place like the main stage, or spend all your time shopping.  Take time to explore the hidden corners of the fair. You never know when you’ll run into wandering musicians, or jesters or costumed patrons doing some entertaining shenanigans. And speaking of costumes — you’ll find a huge variety of eye candy! From historically accurate garb to fantasy creatures, vikings,  and “barbarians”. Not to mention the occasional time-traveling storm-trooper or Galaxy guardian. Enjoy it all and grab some photos (ask first!).

Take time to relax and watch this magical world go by. And be prepared for conversation, too. You will find plenty of folks who appreciate your kilt and you may make some new friends among the other kilted Celts. Have fun!


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You can almost certainly find a fair near you – Above: fire artists at the Minnesota Renn Fest
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