A Renaissance fair or festival is an event which is meant to replicate the look and feel of fairs during the Renaissance period in Europe or England. The fair typically includes a number of traditional entertainments such as music, jousting, dancing, and theatrical performance, and an assortment of foods and drinks from the period are available as well. Many fairs also have an assortment of vendors offering a range of products, both Renaissance themed and otherwise.
The precise nature of a fair varies, depending on who is putting it on. In some cases, a Renaissance fair is designed to be a historically accurate re-enactment which offers learning opportunities for visitors. The vendors are kept strictly within the confines of the period, and actors dress up like historical figures to mingle with the fairgoers. In other instances, a Renaissance fair may seem more like an amusement park, with more leeway in the types of products offered and a generally more commercial feel.
In either case, attending a Renaissance fair can be a fun experience, especially when a range of entertainments are on offer. Many people dress up in period costumes to get into the feel of things, with most fairs focusing on the Tudor period in England, especially the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Other Renaissance fairs may have a more European feel, focusing on Italian or French history. In all cases, the fairs celebrate the flowering of arts and culture which marked the Renaissance period.
During the Renaissance itself, fairs were common events. They were typically located in a central area so that a range of vendors and patrons could meet, and entertainments like traveling players and clowns were common. At a fair, visitors could shoe their horses, purchase kitchen supplies, exchange information about their region, and obtain a variety of other needed goods and services, ranging from farmhands to fine fabrics. A modern fair is often quite similar, although the proliferation of actors dressed up as royalty might be a bit inaccurate, strictly speaking.
The United States holds a proliferation of Renaissance fairs every year, typically in the summer months so that the weather is enjoyable. In other countries, the fairs tend to have a slightly different look and feel, with more of a focus on education and less of a focus on commercialism, and they may be less abundant in some cases. If you are interested in attending a Renaissance fair, try searching for “Renaissance fair” and your region in your favorite search engine.