Come All Ye Tramps and Hawkers

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A floating dragon is reflected in the lake at Young Park


Prig: he haunts wakes, fairs and bear-baitings.
The Winter’s Tale, IV,3,109

You’ll not find prigs at the annual Las Cruces Renaissance Craftfaire this November, but you’ll find plenty of good, clean fun.

Perhaps a few jugglers, a few mimes, a few armored knights engaged in combat, surely a few jesters. But no prigs. You’ll probably encounter a wench hawking flowers or cookies in her best Eliza Doolittle accent, “Hey, lye-dee. Buy a cookie frum a poor gel. Just 50 cents. ‘Taint much tapie.”

Onlookers marvel at the royal family who preside over the weekend’s festivities, complete with Elizabethan costumes and push-up devices (called busc boards) for the ladies. These things are very uncomfortable, according to one of the courtiers. But . . . anything for authenticity.

History

Surely one of the best Renaissance Fairs between Houston and San Francisco, the Las Cruces Faire started humbly enough at the Holy Cross Retreat near Mesilla Park. When that venue proved to be too small, the fair was moved to the Downtown Mall before ending up at Young Park on Walnut Street - which proved to be the perfect spot. And there it seems destined to stay. Visitors come back every year to celebrate with a near-religious fervor. Mike and Bobby Sherman of El Paso have been bringing their son Colin since he was a baby.

“We really look forward to it as a highlight of the fall season,” Bobbie said. “We have been meeting some friends, Pam and Gary Pippin, up here for years, and we were really disappointed last year when we had to go to Odessa for Colin’s soccer tournament. We just felt something was missing.”

Food

While strolling around the park, you’ve your choice of repast at thirty food booths. Not all comestibles are from the Renaissance, but what the heck? Your stomach won’t know the difference. Choose from barbeque brisket, red enchiladas, puffy gorditas, bulging burrritos, piquant caldillo (what else would you expect at a Southwestern event?), bratwurst, turkey legs, and Philly sandwiches. For your sweet tooth, you’ll find snow cones, ice cream, and brownies. There’s even a booth with nothing but chocolate by (who else?) the Unitarians. Wash it all down with coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Sorry, no alcoholic beverages are served here. The food booths are manned by volunteers from non-profit groups, and their rental fees go to other Las Cruces cultural groups.

Entertainment

Performers of all stripes keep the three major stages and several minor stages hopping. Runa Pacha will play traditional Incan music, not very Renaissance-y, but entertaining. Jewels of the Desert will entertain the royal court with Middle Eastern dancing in full costume. Members of the Society for Creative Anachronisms put on mock battles throughout the day. In addition to all this you’ll see fiddlers, pipers, magicians, Renaissance singers, and even a dragon floating on the lagoon. Boat rides and tethered hot air balloon rides are available at the lagoon, also.

Shopping

Fair goers who thrill to shopping will find dozens of peddlers hawking their wares - from paintings to sculpture to stained glass. You’ll find grotesque and whimsical puppets - even an eight-foot tall Toothless Fairy, AKA Meredith Edwards of Albuquerque, whose business name is OddJects d’art. There’s even a medieval book seller.

Plan to do a little early Christmas shopping at the Faire and save some time at the malls.

Parking

Parking is free, but limited. Caveat: Don’t park on Walnut Street or you’ll find a ticket on your windshield. Take Lohman off I-25 to Walnut, take a left and follow