The Wide Angle: Taking a walk through history

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 28, 2016

We were still some distance away when our eyes met and in that moment we both knew what I wanted.

Slowly, as if time itself were slowing down to mock me, I made my way toward her, my palms sweating in anticipation.

All around us the crowd ebbed and flowed. Islands in the river of humanity that moved all around us.

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My vision held only her as finally, after far too much time I stood before her. Her smile was welcoming with a hint of impish mirth and with her first words, I melted.

“Here you go — one turkey leg.”

For another year, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee is underway and like so many years before, myself and my girlfriend will be making our way north.

The Renaissance Festival, to the history major in me, is quite simply — a blast. Granted, it’s probably considered by most as a stage act, simply to entertain and those that think that way aren’t wrong.

Many are going to see the often times comical, but undeniably physical, jousting act; the comedy of the Tortuga Twins and Johnny Phoenix and of course the food, most notably the aforementioned turkey leg.

Still, there is enough there to thoroughly satisfy the history geek in me.

See? Aragorn ... ish.

See? Aragorn … ish.

For a number of years we would go up as is, but gradually we began to formulate a new way of enjoying the festival.

The great thing about Fest, which is what many of the workers call it — and yes I have that on good authority, having a number of friends that work Fest in a variety of ways, is the degree of involvement you can have with Fest itself.

In short, you can dress up. Yes, I play dress up. My ensemble usually bends to the ranger variety. Think a less cool-looking Aragorn with no hobbits to protect. I have period-looking breaches and shirt, a long green cloak, dagger and sword and plenty of pouches. I even have two drinking horns that you actually drink out of — one is even a horn which, yes, I’ve often thought about bringing to work to not only drink coffee out of, but also to keep my co-workers on edge as well.

It’s amazing how taking active part in Fest changes the atmosphere. You are no longer just a visitor. You are in many ways an active participant in what’s going on around you.

I can even remember one year being stopped by a group of people just so they could take pictures with us. It’s an immersion that I never thought would be possible, but it was fun at the same time and changes how you visit Fest.

We’re not employed by Fest, but it doesn’t seem to matter. You’ll get nods of acknowledgment from the actual cast and the sideshows you encounter throughout the festival grounds.

Our day usually includes a number of laps around the festival, just sucking in the atmosphere and being part of the experience. We stop in the many stores, never really buying anything, just checking everything out.

It’s a blast of day and I’ve never had so much fun playing dress up.

There is more to the day, though, and over the years one piece has become one of my favorite parts, and I’ve probably become a little obsessive about it. That obsession is Wagner Bros. Orchards and Bakery.

You probably know it even if you haven’t stopped. It’s that little shop between the festival grounds and Jordan. It has the giant apple out front and the rather interesting entrance that sometimes makes it seem like you’re playing Frogger just trying to get there. And let me tell you, I would literally hop across that road as Frogger for their apple pies.

I like my mother’s apple pie and, of course, I like to think that I make a pretty tasty pie, but the pies at this place are good enough to make me drive all the way from Austin just for those. Seriously, I’ve given it actual thought.

In fact, I’m giving it thoughts right now. Mmmmm…..

You could hardly do worse than a day like that. Granted, you feel ridiculously bloated and uncomfortable because of all the food at day’s end, but man is it worth it.

We all just need to get a leg up on life every now and again.