The last time I attended this particular RenFest they had just moved to their new location in Crownsville- at least 20 years ago (that's the 80's for the math-challenged out there). It was much smaller in scope and decidedly more...gritty. The performers would pass the hat around after the show, there was less food, more swearing, and a mud-wrestling pit.
What a change. The site now has more than a dozen permanent buildings, including a horse show ring for jousting (the Maryland state sport), multiple stages, and shops. No more harassing the patrons for cash. Food that includes more than Steak-on-a-stake. It is more kid-friendly but less authentic. Not that it ever was truly authentic, but you know.
I heard one fellow describe it as the "romantic renaissance." Brewguy described it as a renaissance-themed-mall.
Three things I was disappointed not to see:
- A bakery. Bread was one of the food staples of the time. I personally would have loved to eat a variant of the ploughman's lunch with a half-loaf of good bread, some cheese and a brew.
- A brewery. This went hand in hand with the bakery. Wild yeast in the air was used to make the bread rise. The bread starter would then have been used in brewing. In fact, beer was often the drink of choice as water was unsafe. The boiling would kill the pathogens and the yeast would crowd out the bacteria. I'm not suggesting that recipes from the middle-ages be followed exactly. The Reinheitsgebot purity law, specifying that beer was to include only hops, malted barley and water (yeast was not discovered until much later) was not enacted until 1516 so middle-ages brew from the British Isles would probably be very sour and include such diverse ingredients as juniper berries. Nevertheless, I think a good RenBrew would be well-received.
- A fiber artist/spinner. With the exception of one weaver, there were no fiber artists. I expected to see at least one person offering homespun or spinning fiber themselves. I think a shop offering handspun yarn, raw fiber and drop spindles would be great!