Event Review-Virginia Renaissance Faire 2015

The Virginia Renaissance Faire (VARF) is a fabulous family-oriented festival, now in its 14th season. The “little faire that could” has grown from a small traveling show to a spring mainstay at Lake Anna Winery in Spotsylvania, where they now draw upwards of 20,000 patrons over their 5 week run.

The first thing you will notice at this show is how incredibly interactive the cast is. I challenge you to get through the gate without being engaged by one of the many townspeople that bring the 16th century village of Staffordshire to life and asked to take part in a dance or game as part of the preparations for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I and her court. Even the shyest child (or grown-up) will be hard pressed to sit on the sidelines when personally invited to be part of the fun.  This is a stark contrast to many of the larger faires (yes Maryland, I’m looking at you), which seem to have forgotten that patrons come to feel like a part of a different time, and simply serve as giant Tudor shopping malls and performance venues that no longer invite attendees to be part of the world they create.

The troops line up in preparation for the Queen's arrival.
The troops line up in preparation for the Queen’s arrival.

If you have kids, this is a great weekend trip.  VARF remains firmly committed to their educational mission, while making sure that there is plenty of fun to be had alongside the learning.  Highlights include a recreation of a 16th century military camp, where kids can learn about all the skills that went into keeping an army going, from weaponry, to cooking, to lectures on period (if gruesome, because kids love gruesome) medicine from the surgeon/apothecary. There are lessons on boarding hostile ships from the naval men and, for those of a less martial bent, classes on just what goes into making all the beautiful clothing seen on the Queen’s courtiers. There are alpacas, a small petting farm, and even a whole section of the site (Poppett’s Pastymes) dedicated to the youngest set, with storytelling, puppet shows and period games.

Don’t try this at home!

The grown-ups definitely won’t feel left out of the festivities with archery, as well as knife and axe throwing on tap for those of an age to risk their own fingers and toes. Speaking of ‘on tap’, John Barleycorn’s Tavern serves up a decent variety of craft beers, cider, and mead as well as providing a venue for some of the more ribald musical performances. Outside of the tavern, several stages play host to a variety of entertainment including musicians, comedy jugglers, Shakespearean silliness, magicians, and even a small circus if you get there on the right weekend.

And no self-respecting Renaissance Faire is complete without a joust.  Generally, depending on weather, there will be two demonstrations of jousting per day, as well as an opportunity to see coursing greyhounds.

You can never go wrong with a nice hat!

There are a good variety of vendors on site, selling everything from inexpensive thrift store tankards to high-end leather goods and period clothing. Prices tend to be more reasonable than at a lot of the larger and more established venues, so if you are looking to find that perfect piece to fill out either a historical or fantasy ensemble, you could do worse than make a special trip out just for shopping. Handcrafts abound, as well as more esoteric services, such as fortune telling and on-site reflexology and massage therapy.

The number of food vendors has increased this year, and a good variety of items are available, but this is still one area where the faire simply has not kept up with the growth in the number of patrons.  Wait times at food stands, particularly for popular items such as the ubiquitous giant turkey leg, can be long and hot.  The cast does their best to keep folks entertained while they are waiting, but it can be frustrating, particularly if you have small children who want food right now. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly.  Lines are shorter earlier in the day, so it may be worth the inconvenience to opt for an earlier (or later, they quiet down again by 3:00) meal time. And drink lots of water, May and June in Virginia can be brutally hot, and only about half the site offers shade.

VARF remains predominantly a soft site, with vendors and townsfolk housed in tents, rather than permanent buildings, but a number of permanent stages and other sites have been gradually going up in recent years. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues now that it has legitimately grown into a mid-sized faire.

If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of (and I assure you that it is), it’s not too late. The 2015 Virginia Renaissance Faire continues to run weekends only through June 7th at Lake Anna Winery. Tickets are $10 for ages 6 and up or $35 for a season pass, available on site.


Further details at http://www.varf.org/index.html

Disclaimer: I am not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed herein are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. All content herein is my own save for stock photos or quotations shared under Fair Use guidelines. Please don’t steal it without asking nicely first and linking back here to help make me really, really famous.

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56 thoughts on “Event Review-Virginia Renaissance Faire 2015

  1. Dear [redacted],

    Every year, I have made an annual trek to the Virginia Renaissance Faire as a friendly gesture, to pay my respects to performers working as our counterparts and reconnect with the many friends who work at our neighboring state faire between our seasons.

    With apologies to those friends, that practice came to an end five minutes ago. As a whole, this was not VARF’s fault – they didn’t do anything. But a few amongst your number had their big boy troll pants jacked up high and decided to agree with Lady Hackjob.

    [redacted], I don’t know what sort of journalistic background you have accumulated that you think gives you the right to lob grenades at the hard work of others and drive wedges between old friends … but lady, you are operating from a place of total ignorance.

    In your sig line, you highlight your desire to be “really, really famous”.

    I would counsel against holding your breath.

    Yours truly,

    A man who has worked his ass off to entertain untold thousands of people, and has become very tired of pompous “in the know” wannabes taking potshots at him and his fellow performers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not sure you even attended MDRF last season. I did. Speaking as a veteran professional reporter and journalism professor, I found your comment about an exceptionally fine renaissance festival inflammatory, inaccurate, and superfluous. It was not vital to your story; you should have left it out. Instead, you picked a fight where there was none to be had. But blogs are mostly opinion, not fact, and not subject, evidently, to the same journalistic ethics of other media vehicles such as TV, radio, and print, which is why, despite being prolific in number, they lack the same credibility as traditional media.

    Every festival is different; they cater to their unique audience demographic. What works in Maryland is different than what works in Virginia, or Texas, where I happen to perform. No two festivals are alike, neither should they be. Each can be honored for what they offer without getting insulting. You could have taken the high road. You didn’t. How unfortunate.

    Know that freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of having said what you said. You could have remained professional; you chose not to be. What a shame. I will be interested to see if you do, indeed, become “really, really famous” or simply another dime-a-dozen sensationalist writer.

    Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was in the old VARF court and I must say you’ve done a disservice to the new VARF. Mentioning problems at other faires is only going to cause problems for VARF. You obviously did not stop to think that some of the people from MDRF are longtime friends of ours who were more than happy to promote VARF. You just hurt VARF’s operations cost because they have to work harder to rebuild what you just blew up with one lob of a snark grenade. Not to mention insulting our friends. Yes, other faires have had trouble with patron interaction but MDRF has worked hard to improve that. They deserve credit for their hard work, not ridicule and public shaming!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Does no one remember the “joke” “Any complaints should be addressed “Dear Virginia Renaissance Festival”…? Was that not inappropriate, and didn’t people laugh, and still do laugh, at that joke even though its no longer told at MDRF Pub Sing? I think GalaxyJane didn’t actually mean to launch a snark grenade at anyone, I think what she meant to do (perhaps in hindsight, not a great idea) was compare two very different faires on equal ground. Its impossible to do. And the implication that VARF wouldn’t get promoted unless done so by the “friends” they have at MDRF is an insult to the cast, crew and vendors who have put their time and energy into the faire. Perhaps you weren’t aware how conceded your comment actually came across in writing, but it sounds as if you’re implying that this woman’s opinion of VARF is going to ruin its reputation. Every faire around the country gets positive and negative reviews. GalaxyJane, to my understanding, is not associated with VARF in any way except as a long time patron who was attempting to give it some positive publicity. While mistakes may have been made, I feel like the negative backlash has been unduly harsh. Of course, this is just my opinion.


  4. Please forgive my editing of your comment to redact my real name which I choose not to share here for reasons that have nothing to do with you or with Faire politics, but simply for the sake of my children’s privacy per other matters I may choose to address within the pages of this blog.

    I’m sorry you feel that potshots were taken at any particular performers and you will have to forgive me for having no idea who you feel has been “trolling” elsewhere, certainly I see no unkind comments left on this page at anyone’s expense.

    If you object to my opinion that MDRF is no longer as interactive with the patrons as they once were, I will have to stand by that statement. Despite what I have observed, I still love Maryland, it was my first Faire over 20 years ago and I will continue to attend at least once a year. They do many many things well, they certainly have more to offer in the areas of games, food, drink and big-name performers. But as far as interacting with the run of the mill patrons go, those who may not be able to make the trek more than once every year or two, they are a victim of their own success. With the sheer numbers of folks that go through that gate every year, it is impossible to give the sort of personal attention which I experienced in the earlier years of my patronage and which I have experienced every time I have attended the Virginia event. Now that I have kids of my own to bring, it makes that personal touch a lot more important to me.

    I’m sorry that you hold the whole of VARF responsible for either my opinions or those of other private individuals, I am not formally affiliated with either VARF or any other festival. As far as my disclaimer goes, it’s the same as I use in all my opinion pieces and is meant to be taken with a grain (a whole shaker) of salt.


  5. Wow, I hope your mother washes your mouth out with lye soap for your lies about Maryland Renaissance Festival! I’ve been going there since 1986 and always have interaction with the cast and vendors. I don’t go to VARF because it’s too far and I was not impressed. Granted that was 1997 at the old location. MDRF casts and crew work very hard and for you to judge them is ridiculous. You abviously have no clue about MDRF fairemaly.


  6. Gobsmacked.
    It is the only word I can think of with regard to your “review”
    To insult others in a attempt to make another look good leaves me gobsmacked.
    Perhaps you should take a hard look at your writing young lady and make a few revisions.
    Your wish to be snarky falls flat to the tune of leaving large numbers of Marylanders who have supported this faire unwilling to drive hours to do so again. You hoped to garner attention for VARF with this and you did.
    Sadly it is all negative and will most likely cost them quite a bit of business. You have absolutely made a name for yourself, just probably not quite the way you hoped.
    This was unprofessional at a absolutely shocking level.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jane –

    A few things.

    1) If you truly wished your name redacted, then perhaps you should not have posted it on your own Facebook account and linked to outside groups FROM your own account – which uses your full name. That’s the funny thing about Social Media being social and all.

    2) You are correct that I acted in a completely unprofessional matter towards my friends at VARF because of your comments. That is childish and unfair; I reacted badly and I resolve not to fall into that pit again.

    3) Please DO NOT insult everyone’s intelligence by attempting to retrofit “noble thoughts” onto your pre-existing written snark. The phrases you used – “seem to have forgotten that patrons” and “giant Tudor shopping malls” cannot be retroactively softened into “victim of their own success” once you realized that perhaps someone who works damn hard might have taken offense at the oversimplification. Perhaps that sort of spin sounds good in your own mind … but it rings utterly false here.

    And “no longer invite attendees to be a part of the world”? That is COMPLETE AND TOTAL CONJECTURE on your part. You have no idea the sort of extended rehearsal period we undergo, not only to learn our lines, characters and relationships to each other, but also how we can strive to interact with as many patrons as possible, to make each and everyone “part of our world”.

    I do not say any of this to the detriment of VARF. They have grown admirably over the past few years, and we wish for their success as much as we do our own. This is not a competition, they are our friends, and there is room for both of us.

    One of the primary reasons that the Maryland Renaissance Festival is lauded as one of the most professional RF’s in the country is because of the steadfast attention they pay towards entertaining and involving as many patrons as possible. Any performer who has undergone the lengthy rehearsal process as a street performer at MDRF would take great offence at your casual dismissal of the months of work we do preparing to entertain patrons.

    Specifically – and I cannot emphasize this word enough – SPECIFICALLY families with children. From your reply, it appears we may have missed yours. And for that, I do apologize.

    But to use that as a “slam dunk” that we have made the concious decision to “forget” the importance of our patrons … sorry. That’s a personal perception of yours – unfortunate, but not indicative of reality by a long shot.


    1. I assume she redacted her name because she didn’t want to be harassed by an angry mob. I assume she probably didn’t feel the need to redact her name when she first posted this on her personal page because she didn’t think that she would be harassed by an angry mob. And I assume she made up the line about this being about other issues because she doesn’t want to admit that it’s more than a little terrifying to be harassed by an angry mob. She probably IS concerned about her kids, because of you.

      You care an awful lot about one minor insult that sorta kinda affects you, as though that insult mattered in the slightest bit, but you seem completely oblivious to the very real and very dangerous power you wield as a public figure. Directing your fans towards this blog post and encouraging them to voice their displeasure with “Jane” was a monstrously irresponsible thing to do. She would be well within her rights to write to MDRF owner Jules Smith (jules@rennfest.com) to tell him that she currently feels threatened by one of his employees. This whole thing is unconscionable. Call it off.

      – Ned


      1. Thanks, but despite the ill-bred behavior on display here I don’t think this has reached the point where I need to call the boss to complain. I might exercise the option of spending my money somewhere else this fall, but that’s likely the full extent of my ‘wrath’.


      2. Only one thing to correct. I didn’t “make up” the part about “other issues”, I really did start this blog anonymously for family safety/career-dependent issues, though apparently angry internet mobs *should* have also been a factor, They will be in future. The details are unimportant and going into them would defeat the purpose of having kept them to myself to begin with, but I assure you they have been there all along.

        I will be taking further precautions in future as (for better or for worse) this escaped out into a far wider world than I ever expected this little blog to reach.


  8. Ignore the haters, Galaxy Jane. I only see one group of people with their big boy troll pants on, and they seem to be converging on your comment section.

    That said, you hit the nail on the head in your reply comment when you said, “With the sheer numbers of folks that go through that gate every year, it is impossible to give the sort of personal attention which I experienced in the earlier years of my patronage and which I have experienced every time I have attended the Virginia event.”

    That’s it exactly, and I wish that had been what you wrote in the article. Personal attention at VARF is much more noticeable than at MDRF because of the lower audience size and the extra space. But that doesn’t mean that Maryland has “forgotten” that patrons want to feel immersed. Like you said, the sheer numbers of people makes that sort of personal attention impossible, period, end of story.

    What would you like Maryland to do? Move to a bigger site? They’re trying. Shrink the audience size? They have a self-imposed attendance cap in place, specifically because they believe that once the festival becomes crowded enough, it’s no fun for anybody there. You can imagine how happy some people are to drive all the way there only to be told that the festival is sold out for the day and turned away. Turning away customers isn’t an easy business decision, and it’s not a decision that would be made by people who don’t care about their audience.

    If your argument is that Virginia’s atmosphere is better, or that Virginia is much more effective at creating that atmosphere than Maryland, that’s fine. Lots of people who work at Maryland would agree with you. But the implication that the reason VARF does this better is because Maryland doesn’t care is what was out of line.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did not intend to imply that it was that they don’t care, I do realize that it is mostly a matter of sheer size at this point. It’s an issue with other big faires, not just Maryland, for the same reasons. But Maryland is where I have experienced it most deeply as it is the place I have gone to most often over the greatest number of years to have seen the changes.

      I really hope they find success looking for their new site, so far they seem to have been stymied at every turn by NIMBYism and I worry (as I’m sure many others do) that they will end up much farther away by the time they find a home.


      1. I believe you when you say you didn’t mean to imply that MDRF doesn’t care, but trust me when I tell you that that’s unequivocally how it reads. If it’s possible, you should consider an edit of the paragraph, both because it will more accurately describe your feelings on the matter (since you didn’t actually intend to imply that Maryland cares less), and because it will more accurately reflect the truth of the situation. And as an added bonus, it will also give your childish antagonists a win, so that hopefully they will declare victory over the horrible tyrant blog lady who dared to off-handedly make a minor slight, go away, and leave you alone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for being constructive in all this, but I’ll let my words stand for what they are. I own what I said, regardless of any more nuanced feelings I might also have on the matter.


        2. Ned:
          I think your posts sum up nicely what went wrong in the post, and how to correct it, without being harsh or critical. Of course, constructive criticism should always be welcome in the arts, but I feel like some of the MDRF’s who have read the article feel offended because of the work they put in, and these feelings is what struck a nerve, causing them to lash out in anger. As artists, especially in performing arts, almost all of us take what we do seriously, and so when it is implied that we have not done our best, or have purposefully forgotten, gone out of our way to exclude, or was just plain lazy, and didn’t give paying customers the show they had expected, its easy to see how emotions can run high. The same goes for family and friends of those artists, who know how hard their artists have worked to entertain, and become very protective of them as a result. This can lead to people coming to defend the honor of their artist. Bottom line, I think things were done poorly on both sides.

          I liked the way you have worded things on almost all of your posts. And I appreciate your levelheadedness in addressing the issues. Instead of reacting with your heart, and becoming passionately heated at some mistakes, you gave good insight into how to correct those mistakes without tearing the person who wrote them down and discouraging artistry. I applaud you for it.


  9. You seemed to have attracted a congregation of angry trolls. I’d say pack but they’re entirely too preachy to be from anywhere but some sort of Maryland cult. Holy crap you’d think that you smashed their idol and set fire to their temple. I mean how dare you point out something that you felt the Virginia renfair was doing better then the MD fest. .. you heathen .
    The shear amount of hypocrisy of anyone from Maryland renfest complaining of criticism is mind breaking. During the run of the previous incarnation of the Virginia renfair, you couldn’t walk a 100 yards in the gates without a good chance of running into an entire skit from the MD staff trash talking not only the fair but all anyone that dared to visit them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So, what I will say is congrats VA on a long road to a VERY impressive success! I’ve been with many tiny faires over my 10 year tenure with my local faire as a Main Stage actress and member of the royal court (mostly the villain, but hey I’m not bad, I’m just cast that way). I think this bloggess has expressed her opinion. She is still a patron and a person! Whether she has gone to the faire 10 times, or daily for 10 years, she is still entitled to her opinion.

    I work for a large faire who has become significantly more ‘corporate in feel’ and I know how these reviews can sometimes feel. But it’s important to remember that she didn’t come on here and say “the actors there suck so hard! OHMAGAWD!” Also remember, that you, if you work MD, are a representative of their organization, and your faire. Attacking anyone who doesn’t think you are the best does not speak well of that organization. We have a ‘fued’ with another local faire and bloggers tend to compare the two, but it’s no different than someone comparing Shaws to a Stop and Shop. Its two local things, that sell the same thing. People will compare them.

    I think suggesting someones mouth be washed out with hazardous deadly chemicals is a bit much considering what she said was hardly that scathing compared to some reviews and drama I feel safe saying we’ve ALL seen in our field.

    I have never been to either of these faires, but attacking a person based on their opinion doesn’t speak well of any one of us.

    They are simply two festivals managed differently, and just because a blogger prefers one doesn’t mean she deserves to be threatened and hated on. Use the distaste at the opinion to up your game and greet as many people as you can, stay in character, be bigger! Most importantly, be positive, and be kind to each other 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That’s pretty horribly disrespectful to call out an entire cast by name. They work incredibly hard to put together a wonderful experience for the guests of MDRF. You are most certainly entitled to your opinions, but it is petty and rude to insult the performances of a specific group like that. I am not a faire performer, but I am a performer, and I am insulted by your comments. Our cast does a hell of a job, over ridiculous hours, and in the worst weather Maryland has to throw at them, and always they’re happy to do it.


  12. Ooh, the VA Renn Faire still exists? I thought its former site had been turned into “one of the creepiest abandoned places.” I went there about 10 years ago after a really bad breakup. Sort of doing the Goth-in-Rags thing. It was hot and treeless. I think I nearly died. Thank Heaven for Rennies who know when to buy a girl (or guy) a cider! (I wished for oyster shooters at the time. Any chance of those? With Sam Adams, if you please, and not Natty Boh.)

    I will have to check it out. The PA Renn Faire has gone from being just a wee baby faire to a great large thing with streets and everything.

    Does the VA Renn Faire have drinks vendors with wheeled carts? It really helps to relieve hot crowds. Shaved ice would be great too, but I guess that’s reserved for gas station kiosks and the West Coast. Sadness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is at a new site (actually a whole new Faire, but 14 years “new” now) at Lake Anna Winery. Smaller, as they don’t have the corporate backing and, as I said, still mostly a tent affair, but a lot of fun and seems to be growing fast the last few years. No oysters or drink carts (that I saw) yet, but the drink carts especially would be awesome, especially when standing in lines. There was some sort of snow cone stand that I saw , but I don’t know if that constitutes shaved ice. Beers were strong and good, they had a nice imperial stout but I don’t remember what else.


  13. Mika and Chris
    You have missed the point completely by the remarks here. The point was not that Mary had a great opinion of VARF. I do not think anyone disagrees with that view as it is a lovely festival. The distress was insulting ANY fest ( It matters not who or which one it is) for what they do. A lot of people put many hours of long hard work into each and every one of these festivals around the country and there is simply no reason to insult anyone’s hard work. For anyone to further insist anyone’s views of this being a really unfair thing to say about any festival is some how a ” troll” or has hurt feelings or there is some sort of feud is just silly.
    As for any ” trash talking” I have yet to hear anyone from either VARF or MDRF say a rude thing about one another.
    Because those who work at either place know and understand the amount of hard work that goes into these shows. They practice professional courtesy as well.
    The only ” issue” or anything that I can see anyone is unhappy about is a very inexperienced blogger who is absolutely entitled to their views having it pointed out to her that we ALL can agree with her glowing assessment of VARF but not the need to insult anyone else’s hard work. I assume it was not mean spirited but more of ignorance as to how festivals run the work that goes into them or the fact that most casts around the country have loads of professional respect for their brethren. Were the article about Maryland and this blogger said rude things about Virginia, my outrage would be the same for that or ANY festival around the country.

    My thanks to ALL performers around the country for all your hard work. It is just a pity when anyone insults it.
    Mika and Chris I hope that cleared up any confusion 🙂


  14. Didn’t miss it at all… she had constructive criticism to express, she expressed it. It wasn’t even that harsh. Much less harsh and less personal than the hordes of angry villagers that seem to have descended upon her. The supreme irony is that most of her critics are far more guilty of the very actions they are condemning. If they really though she was being unfair they should have chosen their words for more balanced response. But, nope clearly illogical anger and hate has fueled their words, therfore they can only be viewed as those of bullies and trolls. If people guinely believe that she was being unfair, my suggestion would be for them to apologize, and reword their responses without anger, personal attacks or the hatred that seems to drip off nearly every paragraph… but, we all know that’s not going to happen

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I think she simply compared the two, and VA came out on top. She is a consumer and a blogger. Consumer bloggers compare. It’s literally their job. Again, I will say she hardly spat at the performers work. But the anger and rage that has beset upon a ONE PAGE blog that mentions MD in a simple comparison? I think the anger and outrage here is a bit heavy handed and uncalled for.

      And FWIW, there was zero confusion here. I am a well rounded and intelligent individual who is capable of accessing what she reads. I am also a seasoned actress (20+ years) who understands that not every review of your work will be complimentary (and sometimes you will be the opposite end of a comparison that really isnt even all that unflattering, such as this case) If you work in this field get used to it. Bloggers and reviewers shouldn’t need to handle people with kid gloves, that’s not their job.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d occasionally like to make gloves out of one of my kids, they’re at a mouthy age, would the gloves help me handle radioactive respondents? Because that might solve two problems at once.


    2. Right? Nothing quite screams “professional” like the guy who plays the king at a renaissance festival getting his wife and legion of fanboys to publicly crucify a woman for the mildest of offenses. Jane shouldn’t have implied that MDRF doesn’t care about atmosphere, but this organized effort to harass the author is truly embarrassing.


      1. I think its unfair to assume that there was some plan made up by Fred to come and get as many of his friends as possible to come onto the site and place negative comments. Also, in the spirit of your argument, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to come to the defense of Jane (and very well constructed and level-headed criticism) just to come and throw Fred, his wife, and other MDRF patrons under the bus, as they say? Any credibility you were garnering with your reasoning are marred now by your heated and inappropriate comments in this post. Again, this is just my opinion.


        1. You are unfortunately wrong about this. I had not talked about it myself as it seemed counterproductive as things were winding down, but there was, in actual fact, an organized effort by Fred to have people come and attack me, both here and on my personal Facebook page. He made two separate postings to his Facebook page, calling me out by name and telling his fans to come and put me in my place. He did eventually pull them after several hours, but by then the damage was done and I had already come under attack both here and in my personal Facebook inbox. I let it go because he eventually did remove the posts, but I feel that you should know the whole story as you are arguing (politely and reasonably) from false assumptions.


  15. I think the bottom line is that both faires should be commended, period. There are people from both that put their heart, sweat and tears, and even spare time (who ever has that) in them, and you all do an amazing job. You should not have to be compared to one or the other for any reason. I commend you both and all other faires. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Just because you work hard as actors doesn’t mean her criticism isn’t true. Just because the business works hard at pleasing the customers doesn’t make her criticism not true. And I’m sorry the faires will be compared. That is the nature of life. Get over yourselves and realize maybe you could be an even better faire if you took her criticisms to heart rather than becoming vitriolic and crazed about one sentence. She doesn’t say they “have forgotten” she said they “seem to have forgotten”. Remember these are the impressions of a consumer of your business. What people think when they walk through those doors is important and you ignore it at your peril.
    Honestly with attitudes like those expressed in the comments section here, I’m not sure I’d go back to the MD faire myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. so, what I’m getting from this is that the MD faire can’t take criticism at all. Instead of taking a good hard look at themselves, they decide to attack a random blogger for pointing out that they’re not absolutely perfect?

    News Flash: just because you try real hard doesn’t mean everyone has to appreciate what you’ve done. Trying real hard doesn’t even necessarily make you good, and just because you work hard it people shouldn’t have to to censor themselves so that your feelings aren’t hurt. what are you guys still stuck in a 3rd grade mentality where you want everyone to win just by showing up?

    Also, recognize that there is always room for improvement. Not that it seems from the comments that any of you are interested in anything except sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “LA LA LA We’re the best, anyone that can’t see that is a meanie-head out to get MEEEEEE”.

    If I criticize my local pizza place on yelp, the owner may reach out to me and ask me to come back, maybe even incentivize me with a coupon, to try to change my opinion with a fresh look at his place. I can guarantee you’re doing your business more harm than good if you meet criticism with personal attacks and righteous defensiveness. “My pizza is the best, if you can’t see that, get out!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks heavens I didn’t say say this on Yelp, (although I prefer Trip Advisor, cue the three minutes hate from Yelp fans) can you imagine the response if it had been in a forum that public rather than a small nerdblog that generally only attracts a dozen folks (being generous) on a good day?


  18. Yesterday, I had a PM session with one of the higher-ups at VARF. They expressed their embarrassment that the writer of this blog criticized MDRF when there was no call for it. I expressed my embarrassment that I reacted so strongly when I felt that my fellow performers were unfairly taken to task for the herculean effort they put forth every year.

    We had the Messenger equivalent of a beer and a handshake, and agreed this was all best put to bed. It appears that Jane (the author of this blog) feels the same way, and I for one am content to let things lie.

    Jane had an opinion and expressed it publicly. I disagreed and expressed it publicly. So has everyone else here.

    For the person hiding behind the fake name “Ned Frelson” … as you intended, I don’t know who you are,. I am bemused at your courageousness hiding behind that rather disingenous nom de plume. I offer a helpful hint for your future reference: the person to call and complain about me is NOT Jules Smith. He is the CEO and doesn’t handle day-to-day operations. I doubt you’d be able to get his attention. Not because he doesn’t care, but simply because he has MUCH larger fish to fry than you or I.

    The most effective person to call would be Carolyn Spedden. She is the lady in charge of contracting and hiring performers; consequently, she would be the one to fire mean old nasty bully Fred for the horrible crime of speaking my mind in a public forum when I feel that I and my fellow performers are criticized unfairly.

    You should be aware of something though, “Ned”. Carolyn is not JUST in charge of my employment. Her title is Entertainment Director. She has spent the past several months developing the storyline and framework that her troupe of actors will be performing this fall. It is a monumental task she undergoes every year.

    Which means SHE is the lady whose work was criticized in the original blog post. Yes, she’ll be the one you are talking to. Yes, she is already aware of everything that has been written. She’s developed an admirably thick skin over the years, and manages to confound the criticism of all self-appointed “experts” and produce consistently quality entertainment. So yeah … I went to bat on HER behalf as well.

    Therefore … “Ned”. Your path is clear. Instead of anonymously attempting to goad others into creating drama for you, the road has now been opened for you to do so yourself, out in the open air and away from the security of your keyboard.

    However, once you pick up that phone or start that email, you should be aware that the game instantly changes. I have used my REAL name here, as have others. If you intend to complain, you’ll have to bite the bullet and use your real name as well. Society is funny that way.


    1. Fred,
      “They expressed their embarrassment that the writer of this blog criticized MDRF when there was no call for it”.

      Well obviously you and she feel that you guys do a perfect job, you should go pat yourself on the back some more. It’s pretty self-centered to make a blanket statement that there’s no call for any criticism at all of your entire production.

      Also, your fellow performers weren’t unfairly taken to task for their herculean effort. A single person, a mom, expressed that the last few times she’s been to that fair, she and her kids haven’t had as much fun as at another fair.

      and wow, you just basically said that if someone wants to complain about you, they have to do so to someone who sides completely with you, and who plans to name and shame any criticizers?

      no wonder you play a king! All you want to hear is praise, and criticism of you and your court has no place on any forum. Keep on surrounding yourself with yes men and enjoy being a big fish in a small pond.


  19. Ryan –

    Oh, believe me. I have received my share of criticism over the years. I don’t like it anymore than anyone else does. But you learn where learning is needed, and you move on with an eye towards improving.

    But in this case, I am not a King. I never have been, and particularly not here. I have expressed my opinion and you have expressed yours.

    The difference? I am man enough to identify myself publicly.


    1. Fred,
      attempting to stifle feedback that’s anything less than positive just shouts people into silence. I do hope you are able to grow and learn from this, and in the future approach criticisms, whether or not you feel them warranted, with a less hostile response.

      and good for you on being such a man, it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, and you obviously feel very strongly about the reputation of your fair.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Ryan,

    Agreed. As I’ve said, my reaction to this was childish and instantly regrettable. I publicly apologize for it. Yes, I do feel strongly about the reputation of my fair … and that of VARF’s as well.

    And I’m willing to leave it there, with lesson learned.



    Liked by 1 person

  21. In all fairness to both Fairs, I think it should be noted that VA is a “pass the hat” festival where you are expected to “tip” the performers as they pass a hat at the end of their show. MD on the other hand is not, all performers are paid a fair wage and tipping is not allowed.


    1. Why does this make any difference? The cast of the Virginia Renaissance Faire are all volunteers. While the stage performers may get to “pass the hat”, the villagers, the court, and the Queen are all volunteered – meaning they are paid absolutely nothing to do what they do for 5 weekends. They are also responsible for set up and tear down of the site, and are expected to pitch in with site maintenance throughout the day as required. If you are implying that the reason Jane’s children received that “special attention” was because the cast members were just trying to make a dollar off of them, I am here to correct you. Actually, if the VARF cast members are tipped by patrons, it is their practice to turn those tips into Mrs. Rutherford, who runs Out of the Woodwork Productions. As anyone in the entertainment business can tell you, it costs a great deal of money to put on a stage production of any kind. VARF’s budget isn’t very big, which is why their cast is volunteers – people like you who love history, performing, costuming and the like, and who are committed to sharing their passion with others, even if they aren’t compensated for it. Just a little information. In case you were wondering.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Jane posted nothing wrong and it dismays me if the VARF representative should be embarrassed by anything she said there. Of course we just have to take your word that they said that and that you aren’t just saying it to kind of save face and say see the VARF rep agrees with me! You really should not post what you feel were the intentions of a private communication to us all here. If the VARF rep wants to post and say that is how they felt then that would be fine. Otherwise it comes off as self-serving and unbelievable. I’m glad to see you have apologized to Jane and are willing to leave it as a lesson learned. It unfortunately still leaves a bad taste in my mouth for the MD Faire.


  23. Thanks, Jane.

    Barrett, agreed. You have only my word to go on. I will point out that I have been above board with my feelings and have taken responsibility for my ill-chosen words.

    And I have shown sincerity by stating who I am publicly. If I am lying, then let it be said to all with my blessing …Fred Nelson is GUILTY.

    Not Ned Frelson. Not Ryan No-Last-Name. Not Barrett No-Last-Name.

    I’ve put my word and my honor on the line. You have remained anonymous.

    So — take me to task? Sure, I deserve it. But unless you’re willing to step out from behind a username, I cannot take you as seriously as you would like.

    I will gladly and whole-heartedly apologize to a person I have offended. But I have pride in myself and I’m not going to do so to someone who remains in hiding in order to continue the drama. Sorry.


  24. Exactly why does my full name matter?? I don’t work for either organization and represent no one but myself. This whole idea of full names is just your straw man to try and distract from the real issue that you are now trying to distance yourself from. It would have helped a lot if you had merely just apologized. There would be no drama here if it were not for you.


  25. Thank you. As far as why it matters, perhaps I didn’t explain myself correctly. I have no other assurance that the collected replies above are not from one person posting under multiple names, which can and does happens often in an anonymous forum like this. I’ve been sucked into that game before, and I’m sure many others here have as well.

    Now … despite the fact that I have indeed already apologized, I will do so again.

    I , Fred Nelson, do unreservedly apologize to you. I also repeat my apologies to the author of this blog post, and anyone else that may have taken offense at either my words or how I chose to handle things. I regret my actions, I sincerely thought I was better than this, and I hope the bad taste I have left does not preclude your possible furute patronage at both MDRF and VARF.

    I sincerely hope that this puts the matter at rest in your mind, and that you have a nice day today.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. One last thing from me I want to say “thank you” to the folks who have stepped up to support me and/or provide constructive feedback here. Oddly enough, with one exception (Hi, Barrett!), I have no more idea who the supporters are than the detractors (although this doesn’t preclude the possibility that I know some of them [on either side] IRL, just that I can’t readily identify the handles). It’s an interesting thing about the internet, a group of total strangers are perfectly happy to step forward to slap down someone they feel has caused offense, but other total strangers are willing to step up in your defense, and that’s a pretty spectacular thing. Thank you all.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled programming of B-Movie reviews and articles on semi-obscure European Power Metal bands that no one gives a shit about.


  27. So I’m “late to the party” but have expressed my opinions in replies to others’ posts, because everything that has been said pretty much sums everything that could be said up nicely. Its sad that this happened, because both faires are wonderful, the casts at both faires are wonderful, and patrons ultimately have the right to express their opinions about shows freely. Mistakes were made on both sides here, as I believe I have said already, so I won’t rehash arguments. I will say that, regardless of the negative feedback that EACH faire receives each year, I will continue to attend BOTH faires. I am familiar with several people on the VARF cast and the MDRF cast, and as such I will continue to support them in their creative endeavors, regardless of what anyone else says of them. Because ultimately, I can make up my own mind about those faires. Just because someone may say they didn’t like VARF because its tiny, has no food diversity, or is ungodly hot with no shade, or they hated MDRF because its a commercial faire with no personality, the lines are ridiculously long (especially at the ATM’s, which run out of money at least once a season, making it hugely inconvenient) and there doesn’t seem to be a great amount of diversity among its cast, won’t make me purchase a ticket and go. As with ANY job that focuses on other people for its success (much like customer service), people are always quick to point out the flaws, and almost never praise with the same amount of energy. Keep this in mind while reading reviews for faires throughout the entire season. Not just these 2 faires, but others as well: get out there and explore the circuit, and see what each faire has to offer, and remember that these people are trying to give you an experience and memories. That’s a hard thing to do. Much love and light to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for being polite and reasoned, even where you disagreed with my take. It seems to be way too easy these days to forget that there are real people at the other end of that computer screen and express a degree of contempt that you’d never dare show to someone’s face.


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