Rides and Tales

Observations From Behind Bars

Texas Ren Fest

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The sexy granny and I have returned from another jaunt. Circumstances dictated that we truck, rather than motorcycle, far to the north of I-10, across US 290 and into the wild lands northwest of Houston, TX, where we attended Highland Fling weekend at the 35the annual Texas Renaissance Festival.

We arrived at the festival campgrounds, late, Friday night, but we’re no rookies when it comes to pitching a tent in near dark and home away from home was soon established in the “quiet family area”. The other campgrounds might be named the “rowdy revelers area”, I’m not certain.

Saturday morning, we moseyed on down to New Market town. Of all the themed weekends at TRF, the Highland weekend is the best attended. As we entered, King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon officially opened the festival. That Henry is some snappy dresser, by the way.

We made our way over to the arena, where Highland games were scheduled and found this pipe and drum trio.

The games are a modern contest of strength and skills used in battle. Shown are examples of men “tossing the caber” (KAY-bur). Originally the caber was used to facilitate the scaling of English castle walls. The pole is flipped end over end (to clear the moat) and comes to rest leaning upright against a castle wall. Other games such as stone tossing (like shot put), hay bale tossing (originally burning bales tossed over English castle walls) and an event similar to the hammer throw originated as means to help kill the English. The contests are similar to the carburetor throw and beer keg toss seen at some biker rallies. You got to keep your hand in, you know?

A few hours later, we witnessed other games played by later warrior cultures in the form of the joust. The riders and horses are all accomplished Another element of fun is added by dividing the crowd into German, English, Spanish and French cheering sections who support their knight and boo the others.

Below, you see the English and Spanish knights going at it.

Of course, all over New Market there are musicians, dancers and other entertainment, such as the famous, Ded Bob Show.

and these Irish rouges.

For those who can’t fling, there are dance lessons and then a contest.

This lad was having such a good time he didn’t even notice when the music ended.

After the dancing, we wandered past the Executioner and his helper. And folks wonder why the Highland weekend is so popular.

Now, this was Highland Fling weekend, but there were still a good number of gypsies, barbarians, Cavaliers and, God bless them, belly dancers.

A Spaniard and an American head the Shunyata Bellydance troupe up. Their movements were very subtle and appealing and the music and choreography flawless.

Here, the each dancer balances a scimitar on her hip,

and, then, on her head.

Entertainment is only part of the attraction of the festival; craftsmen demonstrate pre-Industrial Age production.

These women make thread

and this woman uses it to make cloth.

This smith and his helper make tools.

The bellows on the forge is driven by this water wheel.

By this time I was developing a hankering for some gumbo in a bread bowl and we began our meander toward the vendor who vends such. On the way we were fortunate enough to catch a performance by the group, “Circa Paleo”, featuring the beautiful gypsy violinist.

It’s good to be a fiddler.

If you’ve never eaten gumbo in a bread bowl, you are missing out. We found a bench under a tree and people watched while we renewed our strength. This couple sat near us and I couldn’t help but admire him and his girl who wore a wonderful leather choker with large dog collar spikes. They stood out in a crowd of traditionally garbed Highlanders but, at the same time, seemed a natural part of the scene.

Next stop was the “Agora”, Greek for a “gathering place”, where we gathered with other folk to enjoy another belly dance show. We’d seen these folks on a previous trip. The troupe is the baby of a talented Egyptian composer/musician/emcee and is a little more “cabaret” in nature, as opposed to the Shunyata group we’d seen earlier, and included skits and a ‘battle of the belly dancers’ between the new girl and a rival.

We had time before the close of the weekend’s festivities, time well-spent having desert, ogling the fairy women and barbarian girls and admiring the mini kilts worn by some of the Highland womenfolk. Jill shopped.

As darkness fell we returned to the jousting arena to witness an amazing fireworks display accompanied by the music of the rockin’ pipe and drum band, “Tartanic”.

Now, that was the official close of the Festival, but certainly not the end of fun and games. The huge campground I characterized as the “rowdy revelers area” saw reveling into the wee hours. That hot granny and I wandered around till my hooves were sore.

One of the things that fun to watch is the fire breathers and fire whirlers (I guess you’d call them).

This fearless young woman breathed fire then took a turn at whirling fire, as well.

We watched some of the guys (who wore a whole lot more clothing on their upper bodies) and witnessed these tents going up, inflated by the heat of the fires placed beneath them.

Jill had carried her bodhrán, (a flat Irish drum), and wanted to join the drummers at a large bonfire. While they drummed, revelers dance around the fire, getting in touch with some basic self and blowing off the steam of the everyday. I sat on a big log, rested my feet and enjoyed the spectacle.

We’re alive and in Texas.


Written by fiddle mike

November 16, 2009 at 6:07 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Your blog is very beautiful. Wish I was there. Very interesting place.

    Helena and Thomas

    November 17, 2009 at 12:17 am

  2. Mike, In NC there is a Highland Fair, is rumored to be the largest on the east coast. I wanted to go last year, but life got in the way…you’ve convinced me I should go this year…but I do need to find a few friends to go with me I suspect…

    This looks like a great time…I sure hope I experience something as cool…thanks for taking me for the ride


    November 17, 2009 at 5:24 am

  3. Looks like our local Renaissance Festival. Very cool, and fun indeed.

    Mr. Motorcycle

    November 17, 2009 at 8:50 am

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