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At The Renn Fair


By Kyle Marksteiner My favorite part of this year’s Las Cruces Renaissance Festival was probably the sword fighting. My daughter and I each purchased padded swords, which earned us a ticket into the melee. The two teams battled using the same system we used as kids –hit in the arm, you lost that arm, hit in the chest, you died, etc. There were a mix of adults and kids playing, and everyone pretty much ran on the honor system in terms of admitting when they were hit. Except for this one guy. He was tall, in his early 30’s, and wearing a tabard with a beer stein on it. We’ll call him ‘Sir Denny.” Whenever one of the other players –adultor kid–hit Sir Denny with their sword –our brave knight simply refused to acknowledge the hit and instead struck back with his own sword, then insisting on victory. It made for an effective tactic. Like Achilles of old, Sir Denny the Invincible strode across the battlefield, smiting his foes while remaining unharmed. He won every battle not by agility, nor by skill at arms, but by simply denying the reality of the times that anyone else hit him. I found myself spending the rest of the day contemplating Sir Denny’s origin story. Is he in sales? Has his wife filed for divorce yet? Does he consider himself as immune to contagious diseases as he is to pretend sword strikes? I settled upon one fact with absolute certainty -I bet he’s an absolute jerk on social media. Later, an arms master with the Society for Creative Anachronism provided some actual combat instruction. The first rule, as one of his opponents found out the hard way, was to wear protective groin protection. The instructor also told his audience that he was teaching Japanese two-handed fighting style, not a western. “That’s not true,” mumbled a random dork watching near me. “This is more of a Kendo style.” Oh, just shut up. Look, I like my people (other dudes). Were generally good at opening jars and bad at holding grudges. But every now and then we just need to get over ourselves. Elsewhere, an armor smith leaned against a pole and bragged to two young women with pointy elven ears that he’d been crafting armor for four years now. Oh well, I suppose it beats purple neon license plates in terms of attracting a potential mate. A headsman wandered the festival offering free executions. We later spotted the same guy wandering the suburbs of Las Cruces. I hope he got home OK. A wandering minstrel approached people attempting to eat their funnel cakes and offered songs. It was a great day for liber alerts majors. Las Cruces does a good job putting together the event. With resources probably a little more limited than they are with the Renn Faires near, say, Houston or Chicago, the organizers pair up with other nonprofits and charities. So, for example, a local cub scout troop ran the rubber ducky race –a historic

cornerstone of medieval entertainment. Meanwhile, the “Dragon Tavern” was a roped off area where several local bars set up booths. Turkey legs were readily available and I was reminded that an advantage of living with two picky eaters is that you can finish their turkey legs after devouring your own. My daughter, whose seventh grade experience has been –shall we say –a mixed bag, had a blast. She jumped into the sword fight, successfully smiting everyone (with the obvious exception of Sir Denny the Invincible). Her enthusiasm bubbled over as she browsed for magic wands and dragon paintings. She was so caught up in watching the joust that she may have even forgotten about her cell phone, for a few moments. It was great getting to see her enjoy herself and get to be a kid again. And that’s what Renaissance Festivals are all about, aren’t they? Getting lost in nostalgia-not necessarily for a historical time period centuries ago, but drifting back much more recently and escaping into the wonderful realm of your own childhood imagination. I can certainly remember sword fighting with my friends at a young age. In fact, there was always one kid who would steadfastly refuse to acknowledge being hit by anyone else. Speaking in a voice of authority, he would simply declare that the sword, or laser, or missile, or whatever it was just missed him –while all of his own attacks were, of course, unblock able. So maybe, in denying the reality of the various swords hitting him, our good friend Sir Denny was just doing a better job of truly immersing himself into the fantasy of the festival than the rest of us. If one is going to indulge in childlike escapism, one might as well go all in. All hail Sir Denny the Invincible –True King of the Las Cruces Renaissance Festival

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