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‘My lance is bigger’


Jousting is a main sporting event at the Renaissance Faire. Photo by Amber Williams

Jousting is a main sporting event at the Renaissance Faire. Photo by Amber Williams

It isn’t enough to simply read about history. One must immerse thy self in the subject to fully understand the time period and why it’s had a lasting affect on our lives today. For some (who are more financially secure) it can be as simple as hopping on a plane and visiting ground zero of where history took place. But for the rest of us, the best way to plunge into history is through reenactments.

“The best way to truly get into character and have fun starts with the costumes,” said Greg Schmidt, Des Moines Renaissance Faire producer. “Just like an actor’s work is much enhanced by his or her costume, that would be true for a Renfaire competitor who wants to feel his character falling into the skill.”

Enter Festival Park and be transported back to a 1550s Olde English castle town. Target practice is the name of the game at this year’s Renfaire, and everyone is invited to test his or her skills. Toss aside everything your mother taught you about not throwing sharp objects, because it’s time to have fun with blades. The knife toss challenges folks to show off their ability to not simply hit a target, but stick it. Perhaps an axe is more your style? Experienced throwers will be on hand to help you better stick your projectile.

For those who fancy themselves Robin Hood incarnate, there is an archery competition where you can win a few shilling (prize money) or a fencing tournament to see who is the master swordsman. Others still might choose to bypass weapons to show off their brute strength on the Hy-striker, where folks try to ring a bell using a sledge mallet.

But the star of the Renaissance competitions is arguably the joust.

“The knights in the jousting tournament will have a progressive competition throughout the day in which one is the victor in the third match at 4:30 p.m.,” Schmidt said.

While these sorts of events are mostly about show, it’s also about sport in the historical sense. Too often people overlook Renfaires. They deem them silly and the people involved obsessed. These are people who care about this particular time period and only wish to inform those unfamiliar about it any way they can. As the saying goes, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it… but those who do are destined to recreate it. Plus, it’s fun.

Don’t have too much fun, though. If you attempt to participate in any of the aforementioned events while intoxicated, you will be sentenced to the stocks until you sober up, i.e. denied for safety reasons. CV               

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


The Des Moines Renaissance Faire is held at “Festival Park” (located at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, just south of the state fairgrounds at 4051 Dean Ave.) Sept. 14-15. It’s open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., rain or shine. Cash-only prices for tickets at the gate: Under 5 – free; ages 5-12 – $8; adult one-day pass – $16; adult two-day pass – $25; active military discount day on Sept. 15 – $4 off, including family members 13 and older. Parking (secured and patrolled) is $1 per vehicle.

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