In the frigid cold of January, on a magical Saturday, our library was transformed into a warm castle of medieval times for a community Renaissance Faire. And, a merry time was had by the volunteers and families who enjoyed costumes, food, crafts, and activities belonging to a time long gone by. This is the first kind of “living-history” program I have hosted, and I think it is one of my top five favorite library programs we have ever offered. So, if you are looking for something totally different to liven up your programming, and something totally budget-friendly, read on!
This program was actually the brainchild of a university student, Mary, who was looking for a host site to complete her history internship hours. She asked if I would consider letting her plan a Renaissance Faire. It was hard for me to envision what she had in mind, but I trusted her to create something special. And, she certainly did! This program is one where volunteers really make the event, so if you can drum up support, you will really have something. We ran this event on a Saturday from 11am-1pm.
I try to have music at all of my programs. It sets the mood and makes people feel comfortable. I was looking for minstrel type music, so I requested every Medieval, Minstrel, and Renaissance CD that our library owns, listened to the tracks, and burn a CD with the liveliest music I could find. My created CD was about an hour, and we had it on repeat all day.
Costumes and Dress-Up:
For any Renaissance Faire, it is the costumes that will make the event. Mary contacted Richland Center high school, our local Community Players (Community Theater) as well as River Valley Middle School’s theater departments and asked if they had Shakespearian, Renaissance, or Medieval costumes. They all allowed her to borrow costumes for both adults and youth! So, contact theater departments and ask if you can borrow costumes.
Or, if you would like to make costumes, I did find some easy instructions online on Pintrest and through Google searches.
At the event, we set up a photo booth attaching old-fashioned printed wrapping paper onto the wall and also using a drape we found at Walmart. Mary set up the costumes on a table by the photo booth, as well as a folding wall to give patrons some privacy while trying on costumes. Mary helped lead this station, and she was the wardrobe consultant. She helped kids and parents pick out their costumes and accessories. When the kids were happy with how they looked, Mary took photos of them in front of the photo booth.
When we do this again, I would love to have full-length mirrors available so the kids can see themselves.
We set up a food table where kids could come through and take a sample of everything. A volunteer helped run this table to help serve the food to the kids. A bakery donated stone-backed “old-world” style bread, and a volunteer made up some honey butter for kids to spread on their bread slices. We also had grapes, corn-meal muffins, and Rice Krispy treats shaped into ovals for pretend “dragon eggs”. Mary also had fruit juice and replaced the “grape juice” labels to read things like, “Cider”, “Oxymel” and “Hippocras” (all Medieval period drinks).
We made money-purses out of pieces of felt. To prep this activity Mary just took rectangles of felt and cut small holes around the edges. We made yarn available on the tables so the kids could pick the color they wanted, and then threaded the yarn through the holes, weaving in and out. Super simple! We then had plastic gold coins and rings for them to put into their purses.
Super simple, but the kids did this for about 30-60 minutes, taking turns to keep challenging each other. My husband bought a 4”x4” board at the lumber store and nailed in two pieces at the ends so the board would not tip over. Kids had to balance on the board and poke at each other with pool noodles for the jousting. If it was too easy, they had to joust on one foot. I am serious. The kids loved this, and they kept doing it over and over!
After a child had won a jousting match, a volunteer dressed up like a king performed the knighting ceremony. Mary had printing paper that looked like old parchment and created a certificate. She also melted max on the certificates and pressed them with a seal. Definitely, something cool for the kids to keep!
Because so much was donated or loaned, it actually was incredibly inexpensive to host this program. All the felt and yarn was donated for the money purses. All the costumes were loaned. The drapes for the photo booth were from Walmart for $14. We already had the pool noodles, and the wood was about $20 to build the jousting balancing beam. Mary already had the paper for the certificates, but you can pick up similar paper for about $13 from Amazon. When we do it again, we may need to purchase the paper for the certificates, and ingredients for whatever food items we want to offer,
Ideas for Next Time:
And, that is about it! When we do this again, I would love to find people in our community who would be willing to do live demonstrations for the kids throughout the day. These activities may not be something that the kids may be able to do, but it would be great to have them watch. How cool would it be for the kids to watch volunteers:
- Playing live period music (maybe on a violin?),
- Creating with leathercraft,
- Demonstrating a simple printing press, or
- Leading a group dance!
Have you ever lead a Renaissance Faire, or simple living-history program? I would love to hear about it!
More photos from the Faire: