With Halloween close by and some free time due to multiple weeekend obligations monopolizing only one day, we had decided to take a leisurely drive through the Amish countryside and visit an out of sorts land protected by a castle. We dared the time travel to fuedal Pennsylvania and the Renaissance Faire in Manheim. It would be our first such journey and it would prove most interesting.
In the rolling farmlands of Lancaster County lies The Shire. It is filled with shops and "taverns" and strange folk. The food and the wares and the folks wearing the wares made for an exceptional day of people-watching. To be quite honest, I could easily spend plenty of hours just sitting and enjoying a pint and a turkey leg and watching the people in this unique place. There were plainly dressed families meandering happily. There were serious characters dripping in authenticity and somewhat less authentic players trying to look the part. There were plump bar wenches pushing their corsets to the limit and poofy skirts and plenty of exposed flesh. There were fairies and women with horse hoof shoes. Steampunks somehow found their way here as did pirates and barbarians. What a strange melting pot of costume-clad time-hoppers.
And this is where the happiness dwindles. We, as a family, enjoy reenactments, historical places come-to-life, Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Ticonderoga, Fort Lee. We have traveled to many. This place lacked all of that. The paid actors were authentic enough and took their trades seriously but the whole community seemed mired in selling to a crowd not truly invested in the charade. Many of the replica weapons were plastic or wooden or cheaply fashioned. The pirates wore Halloween costume plastic boot covers and phony hats. Faux fur was everywhere. Only the women's costume shops carried quality items and they came at a premium. The rest was a confusing mash up of everything role-playing; blown glass, sterling silver, pixie dust, leather shops, dragons, sea-faring merchandise, elves and dwarves, centaurs and witches and the persistent steampunk (of which I will credit with the best effort).
I grew up with a paperback in my hand, reading the adventures of Conan and Merlin and King Arthur, Bilbo Baggins and Gandolf, and other more obscure characters popular amongst the "nerdier" set. I have troves of vintage Dungeons and Dragons material and a closet full of fantasy art by Boris and Frazetta. My comic book collection is nothing to take lightly and reference books on medieval weapons and torture and architecture line many of my shelves. No truly self-respecting geek would be caught in this Shire or caught in such shabby garb. I have perused many custom kinfe shows shoulder to shoulder with history buffs and reenactors looking for that perfect piece to complete their outfit, not a costume at all, and none of those were here. This cosplay nonsense has diluted the accuracy of everything, including history. I essentially paid for my family to walk around a mall shrouded in a corset and robe. My kids loved it.
I escaped back to reality 15 minutes down the road in the perfect Halloween brewpub, Springhouse. The place was swathed in fake blood and zombies and cobwebs. Fake rats hid in the bathrooms that seemed to be having lighting issues, lots of red flickering bulbs. There was Braaiins for Zombies Pumpkin Ale, Blood Turning Black Porter, and Spinal Remains Stout. All fitting brews and insanely delicious. We dined on a wonderfully Kraken-like grilled octopus and pulled pork and poutine. The motif and food and beer were all playful but extremely well done. They definitely understand the season. And the decorations definitely kept the costumes at bay.
We will definitely return to Springhouse but will probably bypass the Shire for more realistic renditions of history (or fantasy).