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It is with great sadness that I, Blackthorne, resign from next year's Renaissance Fair Planning Committee. This year's fair was a horrific fiasco in every sense of the word, and, as one of the founding members of this once-joyous celebration, I can no longer sit idly and condone the direction this event has taken.

The fair started with five friends filled with knightly ideals. It seems like just yesterday that we drank flagons of Coors down in Toby's rec-room, wore aluminum foil and football helmets, and beat the hell out of each other with pool cues and lamps. Where did we lose that vision?

Soon we gathered more Medieval enthusiasts and scholars, all of whom delighted in the traditional Arthurian past-times of sword fighting and juggling bowling pins. It was only after Sir Darryl threw scalding Crisco oil on the shag carpet in an attempt to repel a siege by The Pepperoni Knight that Toby's wife insisted we find another venue to hold our gatherings.

Bryant Park became the new home of the Renaissance Fair. It was a nice place once the condoms and needles were cleaned up, and every Ides Of March after was filled with the merry sounds of flutes trilling and broadswords clanging. Crowds delighted in the festivities and elaborate role-playing; even the mayor and his cronies came decked out as syphilitic page boys, much to the delight of the frolicking wenches and squires. The success of the fair can be judged by the fact that the number of ye olde porta-potties rose from two to eight in just three years. This statistic alone says loads about the fun people were having.

Until this weekend.

Now, as the casualty and damage reports trickle in, I feel it's safe to say our policy of inclusiveness was grossly short-sighted. I realize we were never able to accurately portray the days of yore - as all the trash can lids used as shields have illustrated - but surely we should have worked harder to keep riff-raff out.

Let me begin with the trekkies and transvestites. After a couple of years the fair became inundated with trekkies and transvestites, many times embodied in the same person. Although these people were generally good-natured and harmless, our facsimile of the Middle Ages became tarnished by phasers and falsies. These denizens of fantastic realms unwittingly lowered the morale of the Medieval performers and the expectations of the audience. A perceptible change in attitude emerged.

The jesters are a perfect example. During our first few fairs these castle cut-ups entertained children and adults alike with their juggling, balloon animals, and acrobatic antics. Now we seem to be attracting a lower form of jester; the only ones I saw this year were sullen youths lounging in tents hawking hemp products. Only the serving wenches - the pierced and tattooed serving wenches that is - seem to like these peckerwoods, and they do little to promote the family atmosphere of fun and laughter that Rodeo Clown for Christ & Hemp VikingThe Middle Ages have come to symbolize. Some of you have offered Rodeo Clowns For Christ as an alternative source of zaniness, but who the hell are these guys? Without angry bulls or endangered cowboys all they do is stand around in their barrels and hand out religious literature.

And the list continues: concession stands. Our concession stands have become increasingly commercialized. The booth that has traditionally been occupied by Handfuls Of Hogge is now an Orange Julius stand. Somebody should tell Donny (King Arthur) that nothing brings down this whole pageant more than seeing the king, in the midst of his coronation, sucking down an Orange Julius.

The contests. First we had sword fights, jousting, and archery. Wonderful. Then we introduced - and sold - nunchucks and throwing stars. Not so good. But paint guns? This year's fair will forever stay in my mind as the year the Maiden Marian and Robin Hood characters were blasted by so many paint balls they had to hideout in a recycling bin for several hours. I think those paint balls are dangerous, and there are a lot of trekkies with their little non-firing phasers who will say the same thing.

Maybe it was Phil's idea of a publicity stunt, but I don't think the test tube babies vs. crack babies arm wrestling match was a good idea. Besides their total lack of relevance to the renaissance fair, neither group seemed to enjoy the competition; the crack babies especially were an angry bunch of youngsters, and several people being treated in the medical tent yesterday mentioned them as assailants.

And speaking of angry groups, didn't anybody screen these so-called charity and religious groups? I mentioned the rodeo clowns earlier, but now I'm thinking of the group Pickaninnys For Peace, who, on closer examination, were actually art students from a nearby African American University. They walked around barefoot all day, eating watermelon and wearing old overalls, exclaiming, "Lawd! You sho' nuff is ah big knight, yes suh!" Although their exact purpose was hard to decipher, sarcasm and malice fairly oozed from them, and I'm betting these very same pickaninnys were responsible for the thrashing Merlin and his magicians took behind the Barney and His Cozy Crusaders stage. I have often thought Merlin's costume came dangerously close to being a Ku Klux Klan outfit, and yesterday's ass-whipping proves my point.

Not that rodeo clowns, pickaninnys and crack babies are the only factors responsible for our downfall. This year's fair seemed to have an abundance of explosions. Some of this comes from the pyrotechnics used - anachronistically, of course - in the Sir Perceval and the Holy Grail show. But the other blasts probably had something to do with the lax security around the IRA, PLO, Khmer Rouge, and Red Brigade information stands. Subtly mixed in with the Peace Corps and Greenpeace kiosks, these grumpy troublemakers were probably the instigators of the dozen or so car bombs that went off in the parking lot throughout this weekend's fair. The police snipers assembled on the roofs surrounding Bryant Park did little to quell the chaos; although it was nice to have a SWAT team so readily available during Saturday's riot, I still feel that a popped balloon shouldn't have resulted in a triangulated crossfire that cut down several hackysackers and a polka group.

In conclusion, I wish you, my olde crusading chums, all the best. I have decided to give up the danger of renaissance fairs for the calm of assembling and flying experimental aircraft.

For King and Country,


° ° °

Joel Haskard lives and writes in Havana (Illinois, that is)


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