SANDPOINT — “Hear ye, hear ye!” the royal proclamation commanded. And the people heard. Small numbers of them at first, but news spread like quicksilver until there was a hue and cry across the realm: Prepare thyself for merriment – prepare thyself for the Sandpoint Renaissance Faire.
The first annual event will take place over Labor Day weekend at Wood’s Ranch property along Woodside Road, with the spot being transformed, according to organizers, to a land to be known henceforth as Woodshire.
Those attending will park their vehicles in an adjacent field before “crossing over” into the mid-16th Century, where knights joist, maidens are dressed in finery and musicians stroll through the teeming throng.
“When you ‘cross over’ into our faire, we want you to have a sense of wonder,” said Anita Pew, who prefers to be referred to as Lady of the High Steward or, if you must, Lady Ellura of Woodshire.
Sitting regally at her side is Tanya Anderson – respectfully call her Queen Tanya if you value your head – though her usual title is Lady of the Chancellor. She crowned herself as queen in order to interject a nobler charisma into the upcoming faire.
“As the chancellor of entertainment, I decided to be the entertainment,” Her Highness explained.
The Sandpoint Renaissance Faire will involve just about every period-themed organization in the region, with the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism helping to populate Woodshire for its two days of existence.
“They’re wonderful,” Pew said. “They’re going to have candlemakers, a blacksmith, cheese-making, spinning and weaving, heavy armor fighting and rapier fighting.”
On hand, as well, will be the local chapter of Dagorhir, with members demonstrating boffering – a safe sword-fighting sport that uses lengths of plastic pipe with padded tips, as opposed to actual blades.
Not padded will be the weapons of joust wielded by the knights of the Epona Equestrian Team coming from Spokane. When the mounted combatants collide, the outcome is anybody’s guess.
“They’re bringing six knights and that many again of people in garb,” said Pew. “And the jousting will be real. When those wooden tips hit the knight, they shatter.”
An adherence to chronological reality is a big deal to these fans of the Renaissance.
“We just love that period – from the dresses to the history,” Anderson said.
Enhancing the authenticity will be two troupes of belly dancers, the University of Idaho Fire Tribal Dance group, American Heritage Birds of Prey and musicians scheduled to play on a main stage, two smaller stages and roving at times through the shire as they play music of the period. All of the above will be joined by street performers, lords, ladies and commoners alike dressed, as station allows, in everything from rags to the richest of fabrics.
“We hope that people come in as much garb as they can, but we mainly just want them to have fun,” Pew said.
“Eat, drink and be merry!” Queen Tanya responded.
The monarch was first smitten with the period when she attended the Wenatchee Renaissance Faire with friends Meghan Ross and Sarah Polk, all of them dressed in their 1550s best. They stayed in nearby Leavenworth where, getting into costume one day for a walk through town, they discovered that three ladies in historically accurate attire tend to attract a lot of attention. A carriage driver got into the spirit of the moment and invited the trio to take a spin through the Tyrolean tourist district.
“Everyone in Leavenworth thought we were an attraction,” Anderson said, adding that the carriage soon had a following. “We greeted young lads and lasses – it ended up being a Renaissance parade.”
Wenatchee is now the “partner faire” for the Labor Day event here, bringing its years of experience to the first outing in Sandpoint.
Pew landed on the idea last year, after volunteering to help with the Sandemonium event at the East Bonner County Library’s Sandpoint branch. Impressed that such a gathering could call Sandpoint home, she began to ruminate over what else might work at the local level.
“On the way home from Sandemonium I was thinking, ‘So what does Sandpoint not have?’” Pew said. “A Renaissance faire!”
A quick call to Anderson – with whom she works at the local branch of Wells Fargo Bank – and the deal was sealed. The two started planning the Sandpoint Renaissance Faire last November and began to host volunteer meetings soon after. The group’s goal is not to have a one-off fair, but to develop a three-year plan to get the event “going and stabilized,’ according to Pew.
“Our vision for this first year was that if it’s just 20 of us on blankets under a big oak tree, that would be wonderful,” she said.
That original vision already has been replaced by an updated expectation of what Woodshire might become over that first weekend in September – a jumble of activity laced heavily with the sounds of music, the clang of swords and the smell of food wafting through the air. When approached about the fair, Wood’s Ranch promptly donated the space for the weekend. The same was true for Ace Septic, which will provide port-a-potties at no charge.
“Everyone in the community has been really supportive,” said Anderson. “There’s a desire to have that much entertainment and history all in one.”
“It’s going to be a fun and engaging history lesson,” Pew said, noting that “the door is not closed” for both volunteers and performers, whether actors, musicians or street characters of the age.
The primary element needed to create the magic of crossing over, the organizers shared, is being realistic – but not too realistic.
“She won’t let me have beheadings,” the queen complained, arguing that jousting, sword fights and the occasional Viking raid pale by comparison.
“No beheadings,” the Lady of the High Steward pronounced. “And no people will be drawn and quartered.”
To which Her Highness responded with a royal pout.
The Sandpoint Renaissance Faire will be held Sept. 2-3, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. both days, at Wood’s Ranch, located at 1000 Woodside Dr., north of Sandpoint. Along with period re-enactments and entertainment, the event will include an ale house run by Vietnam Veterans Chapter # 890 for those 21 and over and a Faerie Realm with children’s activities.
Cost of admission is $10 adults ($8 with a bag of canned goods for the Bonner Community Food Center), $5 for seniors and children ages 5-17, with children under 4 admitted free.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online at: www.facebook.com/sandpointrenfaire