A Weekend at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival

My family went to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival for Memorial Day weekend.  TRF is a large, established RenFaire, spread out over acres and acres of hilly woodland.  2018 is their 33rd year.  There are six stages for entertainers, plus the tournament field for the jousting and the falconry show.  There are over seventy artisans and vendors.  It’s not physically possible to see it all in one day, so we didn’t try.

While the TRF sells a special three-day pass available for Memorial Day weekend, we decided that three days of RenFaire would be too much, even for us (not to mention too expensive).  So Friday after work (half-day subbing job, high school special ed) we headed east to Rutherford County.  TRF is actually in Williamson County, but so close to the county line that it’s easier to come at it from Murfreesboro than Franklin.

Saturday morning we drove to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival.  Now that my husband uses a cane, we were able to park in the handicapped parking row.  We greeted the queen.  (Kimberly Stock, who plays Queen Elizabeth at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, is the cast director for the Mid-South Renaissance Faire.)  We glanced at the vendors we passed on the way to the tournament field.  There are three jousts daily, but with rain predicted for that afternoon, we decided to watch the first joust, before the rain started or it got too hot.  We went to the falconry show, did a little window shopping,  then attended the joust.  Then we went to the knife-throwing show, starring juggler Paolo Garbanzo and minstrel Giacomo the Jester (who’s a pretty decent juggler himself.)  Then we went to lunch:  pizza for the kids, chicken-and-rice soup in bread bowls for the adults.

After lunch we did some shopping (both window and actual) and went to some more shows.  There were plenty of shows, some I loved, some not to my taste, and a few I didn’t get to see.


Empty Hats

The Secret Commonwealth

secret commonwealth

Rafferty the Piper

The Roses

The Roses at TNRenFest

And a talented harper who was busking near the clothing vendors — I never got her name, and she had no CDs for sale, but she was good.

Shows and Performances

Ik the Troll and the Fairies

Royal Joust

Daniel, Duke of Danger

Paolo Garbanzo

Axel the Sot

DaVinci Brothers Comedy Operas

Buckle and Swash

Robin Hood

Isaac Fawlkes, Magician

Isaac Fawlkes and the Doctor

Tea with Lady Ettie

Covington Glen Variety Show

Royal Improv

Birds of the Gauntlet

Falconer with Harris hawks

I sold two copies of my book, R is for Renaissance Faire, to Pigasus Books.  I hope he likes them enough to order more copies.  He had some wonderful books I wanted, but we went overbudget on other things, so I couldn’t afford them.

It rained that afternoon, so we took refuge at the Beer Garden, where the Secret Commonwealth was playing.  Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, who were more interested in talking to each other than hearing a Celtic folk band.

I planned on shopping for four things: a hair pin or barrette, a new chemise, jewelry, and music.  I was hoping for the sort of leather barrette that Douglas Leather used to sell, but Mr. Douglas wasn’t there this year.  However, I found some very pretty hairpins at Lilla  Rose.  I found a two-dollar ring that fit well and looked pretty; I forget the vendor’s name.  At Fiona’s Fineries, I found a butternut chemise that complements my blue overdress with the plaid skirt and looks good with my brown bodice.  As for music, there were far more CDs than I could afford.

Susan, Castle Gwyn

Sunday we went on the castle tour.  Mike Freeman, who owns the fairsite, has been building his own castle for years.  It’s still not finished, but he and his family live in Castle Gwyn.

Castle Gwyn, front

Sunday we saw more shows (still didn’t manage to get all of them) and my husband and I tried our hand at archery.  We did a little more window shopping.  There were far too many vendors to list: artists and artisans, candle makers and candy sellers,  bootmakers and booksellers, clothiers, potters, woodworkers, toymakers.

Sunday I had the chicken wrap (the bone surprised me) and my husband had a cheeseburger.  The kids had pizza again.  My husband and I also split an apple strudel.  We heard from other people that the fish and chips were very good, but to avoid the shepherd’s pie.

We had a good time, and if I ever won the lottery I would go for the entire Memorial Day weekend and be a spending fool.  New gowns, new hats, real jewelry instead of costume jewelry, elf ears, a sword or maybe a bodice knife, artwork, and a ton of books and CDs.

The 33rd annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival is done.  The 4th annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire will be the middle two weekends of October.

If you want to buy a copy of R is for Renaissance Faire, click here for an unautographed copy, or come to the Mid-South Renaissance Faire in Millington, TN (just north of Memphis) this fall for an autographed copy.

Susan Murrie with her children's  book

Team Scorpion at the RenFaire


My husband and son are fond of CBS’ show Scorpion on Monday nights, and I watch it with them.  November 13, 2017, Scorpion had an episode called “Faire is Foul,” which took place at a RenFaire.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a volunteer at Mid-South Renaissance Faire, so I was especially interested in this episode.  I enjoyed it very much, but I couldn’t help noticing a few plotholes.

Beware:  SPOILERS!









Necessary background information:  for humanitarian reasons, Agent Cade Gallo (played by Robert Patrick) was forced in a previous episode to choose between killing a prisoner and risking letting him escape.  The prisoner escaped.  Cade Gallo was arrested and suspended from duty as a federal agent.  Sylvester Dodd (played by Ari Stidham), a mathematician with an eidetic memory, took and passed the bar test so he could become Gallo’s lawyer.

Agent Gallo on horseback

Robert Patrick as Agent Cade Gallo {image via CBS}

The show opens with Gallo and Sylvester in court.  After the courtroom scene, all of Team Scorpion (except Ralph Dineen) go to the Los Angeles Renaissance Festival.  One problem:  RenFaires are usually only open on weekends and holidays, days when courthouses are normally closed.

Happy Quinn (played by Jadyn Wong) was dressed as an executioner and wore an axe on her back.  Contrary to safety procedures at every RenFaire I’ve ever been in, her weapon was not peace-bonded.

King Philip came riding through the faire on horseback.  He was unaccompanied.  At Mid-South Renaissance Faire, when Good Queen Bess goes walking through the faire, she is accompanied by at least two guards and two or more ladies-in-waiting and/or courtiers.  She never goes anywhere unescorted.

At the RenFaire, the bad guys sabotaged the transformer, because they needed to steal something from a nearby building.  In the show, this deprived the faire and the surrounding area of power.  Most RenFaires, several of the merchants will have portable generators.

The guard at a nearby warehouse was shot.  Team Scorpion had to save his life, and they did so, MacGyver-fashion.  A friend watching the show asked, “Where are the EMTs?”  Most Faires will have EMTs on standby, in addition to a first aid tent.

Scorpion RenFaire

Left to right, Elyes Gabel as Walter O’Brien, Jadyn Wong as Happy Quinn, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Toby Curtis, Robert Patrick as Cade Gallo, and Katherine McPhee as Paige Dineen.  {image via CBS}

The faire was evacuated of all but a handful of people: a few vendors and craftsmen, Sylvester’s gaming comrades (who performed as the Lords of the Sing), King Philip, and Team Scorpion.  There are generally several thousand people at a faire and dozens of volunteers, performers, and vendors.  I have trouble believing that there would have been so few people.  And where were the county sheriff’s deputies or local police, who usually assign a few men and women to Renaissance festivals just in case?

On the whole, I enjoyed the episode.  It was fun.  The good guys were heroic.  Sly gave a great speech to inspire the folks at the RenFaire, to which all present shouted “huzzah!”   There was some romance between Toby and Happy, and between Walter and Paige.  But when Beauty and the Beast was on TV, I worked for the Public Defender’s office as a legal procedures clerk, and I saw Catherine Chandler get courtroom procedure wrong on a regular basis.  As a RenFaire volunteer and author, I couldn’t help notice a few things off about “Faire is Foul.”

Scorpion team logo

Left to right, Ari Stidham as Sylvester Dodd, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Dr. Toby Curtis, Katherine McPhee as Paige Dineen, Elyes Gabel as Walter O’Brien, Jadyn Wong as Happy Quinn, and Robert Patrick as Agent Cade Gallo. {image via CBS}

If you like Renaissance faires and festivals, buy my book, R is for Renaissance Faire.


If you like political satire written by some of the best science fiction and fantasy authors on two continents, More Alternative Truths, the sequel to Alternative Truths, was released one week ago today.  A portion of the royalties from both More Alternative Truths and Alternative Truths go to the American Civil Liberties Union for three years.  After three years, all royalties will go to the ACLU.

MAT Spelled Correctly

All pictures of the cast of Scorpion are taken from IMDB.com or CBS’ own website.  No copyright infringement is intended.



Haggis Rampant

My favorite part of a Renaissance Faire is the music.  As Patricia Wrede said, “Music and magic are brother and sister.”

Brownlee pere et fille on the bagpipes, with Frieman the Minstrel playing the bodhran.
Haggis Rampant and Frieman the Minstrel leading the queen and her court to the main gate.

At the third annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire,  we are fortunate in having excellent musicians.

Haggis Rampant is not only one of my favorite RenFaire bands, but they include two of my three favorite pipers, Steve and Gillian Brownlee.  (The third is Eric Rigler of Bad Haggis.) Naturally, with a name like Susan Murrie Macdonald, a member of Clan Murray by birth and Clan Donald by marriage, it’s no surprise I like the bagpipes.

Steve B Haggis Rampant
Steve Brownlee

Who are Haggis Rampant?  They’re a bagpipe and bodhrán trio.  They’re a family playing together.  They’re music with an attitude.  And Heaven have mercy, are they loud!

Haggis Rampant trio
Haggis Rampant:  Pam, Steve, and Gillian Brownlee

Normally, Haggis Rampant is a trio consisting of father Steve Brownlee and daughter Gillian Brownlee on the bagpipes and mother Pam Brownlee on the drums, both bodhrán and big bass drum.  Daughter Morgan Brownlee sometimes accompanies them; Morgan is a dancer, a drummer, and a fiddler.

Pam and Gillian
Pam and Gillian Brownlee

They’ve been at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival since 2000, and at the Mid-South Renaissance Faire since 2015.  They have CDs for sale if you want to hear their music, and appear in the ABC book R is for Renaissance Faire if you want a pictorial souvenir.   They also perform at Highland Games, Celtic festivals, music competitions, weddings, funerals, boat christenings, inaugurations, etc.  They did an impromptu performance at the Parthenon in Nashville, TN after the eclipse., which led the crowd of eclipse-watchers into spontaneous dancing.

Morgan, Mom, Gillian
Morgan, Pam, and Gillian Brownlee at the second annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire.

Steve Brownlee, an award winning piper,  has been playing bagpipes since 1996.  He has a wicked sense of humor, such as playing “Scotland the Brave” as he pipes the actress playing Queen Elizabeth of England to the front gate of the RenFaire, or playing “Rain, Rain, Go Away” during a shower.  (I’ve never heard that song on the bagpipes before, and I probably never will again.)  Pam Brownlee is an award winning bass drummer, who took up playing the bodhrán because accompanying Steve was the easiest way to spend time with her husband.  Gillian Brownlee has been a piper since 2003, when she was only a “wee beastie.” She plays the fiddle as well as the Great Highland Bagpipe, although her competition victories have been as a piper, not a fiddler.  Morgan Brownlee plays bodhrán, tenor drum, and violin, as well as dancing.  She’s won a competition or two herself for her solo drumming.  (What can I say?  They’re a family of overachievers, with talent to spare.)  Their shows include joking and teasing between the family members as well as great music.  Most of their music is traditional, but they do a bit of contemporary now and again.

Morgan and Dad
Morgan Brownlee on the tenor drum, accompanied by Steve Brownlee on the bagpipes

Their first album, Haggis Rampant (hard to find, may be out of print), is traditional, as is their third album, Trì.  Their second album, Wee Beastie, includes some of Steve’s own compositions as well as traditional Celtic music.  Their fourth album, The Silver Glens, is what they call their “quiet album” (or as quiet as a bagpipe CD can be).  “This album is a different mix for us. We’re usually playing music that makes our audiences want to jump up and shout “Freedom!” This time, to heck with creating energy; we wanted to record the music that stirs our souls.” Their fifth album, Burly!, includes Ken Petrie on the electric guitar and bass for a wild musical extravaganza.  Their sixth album is still in the planning stages, and they’ve not yet announced the theme of it.

Frieman and HR
Frieman the Minstrel, with Haggis Rampant, at the 2nd annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire

If you’re lucky enough be to able to catch one of their performances, by all means do so.  If you live too far away to be able to hear them in person, check out their CDs. Remember, they’re the letter R in my alphabet book R is for Renaissance Faire, autographed copies available for sale at the Mid-South Renaissance Faire, unautographed copies available through Amazon.

Susan Murrie Macdonald with R IS FOR RENAISSANCE FAIRE.


Photos by Tom Sweeney, R. B. Macdonald, Reggie V. Miller, and Susan Murrie Macdonald

The Mid-South Renaissance Faire Is Coming To Millington!

If you live in Millington, TN, West Memphis, AR, Horn Lake, MS, Memphis, TN, or even Jonesboro, AR, you’ve probably seen the posters scattered around town. Maybe you picked up one of the discount postcards at the Millington Public Library. The third annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire is coming to Millington.

Millington TN - interactive road map       Map of usa stadium

The Mid-South Renaissance Faire has changed venue, and is moving from Shelby Farms Park in Memphis to USA Stadium in Millington. It will be here the last two weekends of August: 8/19, 8/20, 8/26, and 8/27. Hours are from 10:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.

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What is a Renaissance Faire? Why should you go, and what do you do there?

         A A Renaissance Faire, or RenFaire, is a chance to go time traveling without a DeLorean or a blue police call box. It’s a public, family-friendly, outdoor gathering that recreates the Renaissance era to entertain its guests. Part county fair, part living history display, and part fairy tale come to life, it’s an improvisational theater where the audience is invited, indeed, encouraged to participate.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, on stage and outdoorWhy should you come to the Mid-South Renaissance Faire? It’s fun and educational for the whole family, and less expensive than a trip to Discovery Park of America in Union City. It’s far less expensive than a trip to Six Flags in St. Louis. It’s also a chance to make new friends, as visitors will be coming to the Mid-South Renaissance Faire from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri. The entertainers and merchants are coming from all over the US: Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and more.


Why is the RenFaire coming to Millington a good thing?  Guests to the faire are coming from the entire Mid-South area. Entertainers are coming from the East Coast, Texas, and Louisiana. These people will sleep in Millington hotels and motels. They will eat in Millington restaurants. They will buy things at Millington stores. This will be good for the local economy.


If you’ve never been to a RenFaire (and the next nearest RenFaire is a four-hour drive away), you may not know what to expect. What do you do at a Renaissance Faire? Meet the queen and her court, and shout huzzah as Good Queen Bess parades through the village. Watch the knights jousting on horseback. Enjoy demonstrations of swordsmanship and archery, and maybe try it for yourself. Eat a turkey leg.


Play games like Giant Chess, Dunk the Dunce, Veggie Revenge, and Mini Tug of War. Climb Jacob’s Ladder. Listen to the minstrels: Haggis Rampant, John Ross, Melandra of the Woods, Frieman the Minstrel, Donal Hinely, and Memphis’ own Wood, Wind, and Wire. Watch the daring feats of aerialist Shelli Buttons and laugh at the comedy swordplay of the Lords of Adventure. The Mid-South Renaissance Faire also has a touch of magic: the Faerie Queen and her court, trolls, a leprechaun, and a dragon. There’s plenty of dancing, both dance troupes to amuse you and Elizabethan dance lessons where you can join in. Try your hand at brass rubbing. There are costume contests for dogs on Saturdays and humans and elves on Sundays. The pirates, alas, will only be there the second weekend.

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If you enjoy shopping, the RenFaire has plenty to tempt you: toys, clothing, goblets, fans, parasols, weaponry, leatherwork, autographed copies of R is for Renaissance Faire by local author Susan Macdonald, hats, baking mixes, jewelry, jam, candles, artwork, and more. If you come in 21st century clothing and decide you’d like to join into the fun, you can buy or rent RenFaire garb at the faire.

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There’s plenty to amuse the youngsters. In addition to the games and shows, there are two children’s quests. Boys and girls who complete either quest can be knighted by the queen. Listen to the storytellers. Meet the trolls. Buy ice cream from the Ice Cream Dragon.

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What is the setting of the Mid-South Renaissance Faire? The year is 1576.  Queen Elizabeth is on the throne.  Tired of the crowds of London, she and her court have come to the humble Shire of Shelby. The local villagers have organized a festival in the queen’s honor, inviting minstrels and merchants to come as they celebrate the royal visit.


Tickets are $10 for adults and teenagers, $5 for children ages 6-12, and $8 for senior citizens, students, and military personnel with proper ID. Children under five are admitted free. Parking is free.


If the Mid-South Renaissance Faire does well this year, it may choose Millington as its new home.  That would be a financial and cultural benefit to Millington.


Wilt thou come to the Faire?

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Pictures by R. B. Macdonald and R. V. Miller.



The Memphis St. Patrick's Parade featured leprechauns and dinosaurs.

St. Patrick’s Parade on Beale Street

Saturday, March 11, 2017, was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Memphis, TN.  (Okay, they were a little early.)  The official name was the 44th Annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  I marched in it as one of the members of the Mid-South Renaissance Faire group.

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This was my favorite parade participant, a Shriner hillbilly car that blew bubbles.

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One of the many musical groups was the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob.

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The Fire Museum of Memphis sent a firetruck.

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The Mid-South Buccaneers sent a boarding party, er, marching party.

Image may contain: 1 person, car and outdoor  Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorImage may contain: 2 people, people walking and outdoor                              Floats, cars, marchers, dancers, bagpipes, and more!

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Not every St. Patrick’s Day Parade can boast of dinosaurs!  The t-rex dancing in the tutu was my son’s favorite part of the parade.  Before the parade began, Good Queen Bess made new friends.  We’re not sure of they’re her new pets or the new royal guard.

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It looks like Jerry Lawler is running for mayor of Memphis again.

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Here’s the Mid-South Renaissance Faire group.  We have a new location this year, at USA Stadium in Millington, TN, so we wanted to make sure people were aware of the Faire.  It will be the last two weekends of August, 8/19-20 and 8/26-27.

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Before and after pictures:  me at the start of the parade, and me after the parade.  By the end, both my hoop skirt and my French hood were slipping. (Please note the green muffin cap beneath my French hood in honor of the day.)  The weather was cool and damp, although luckily the rain stopped in time for the parade.  The stroll was wearying, but we threw many toy coins, rings, and beads to the children along Beale Street.  The youngsters seemed to have a good time, and so did we.

Gramercy to my son Ian, who took all the photos but one, and gramercy to Lauren Rushdi, who took the picture of Queen Elizabeth with the dinosaurs.

Remember, the Mid-South Renaissance Faire will be August 19, 20, 26, and 27, 2017, at USA Stadium in Millington, TN, just off Hwy. 51.  You can buy  autographed copies of my book, R is for Renaissance Faire there, or you can buy unautographed copies through Amazon.


Space Pirates and Trophies

Well, I didn’t win a trophy, but I did win the the eSpec Books Flash Fiction Contest for September.  TS Rhodes and I tied for first place, Author Rhodes with a more traditional pirate story and me with a truncated version of my space pirate story, “Captain’s

Very truncated. The version I’m currently editing for professional submission is roughly 2,300 words.  The maximum word count for the flash fiction contest was 919 words.  Talk about killing your darlings!  First I cut the adjectives and adverbs.  Then I cut the physical description.  Did the reader really need to know that Captain Carswell looks too young to be in command of a starship?  Does it matter that the first officer is African-American, and how do you describe someone of African-American heritage whose ancestors were from Earth, but is neither Terran nor American himself?  I cut the characterization out.  I cut the foreshadowing for what comes in the sequel I’m planning.  I cut out all the Mr. This and Miss That — it’s a rather formal society; Captain Carswell addresses her pilot as Mr. Fernandez rather than just Fernandez, and it changed the flavor to cut out the honorifics.  Finally, I deleted as much as I could, wept bitter tears, submitted it, and they liked it.

One of my beta-readers disliked this particular story (the original version, not the truncated version).  In part, because I am misusing the word privateer in her opinion.  Captain Janet Carswell is a privateer, commander of the HIMS Bandersnatch. She has an imperial letter of marque, which permits her to attack enemies of the Albionese Empire, including pirate ships.  When not actively hunting pirates, the Bandersnatch and her sister ship often hire out as escorts to unarmed merchant vessels.  My beta-reader says that since privateers were only licensed to hunt their nation’s enemies in the 17th and 18th centuries, I can’t redefine the word to make it an interstellar bounty hunter now.  I say that words change meanings all the time, and would certainly change over the centuries.  Janet is a naval reservist in the Albionese Navy, but the rest of her crew is civilian. In part, she disliked it because it was too talky.  There, I agree with her.  The story needs more polishing before it’s ready to be submitted elsewhere, either as an independent short story or the prologue to a novel.

“Captain’s Claim” is something I’ve been playing with off and on for quite a while now.  Its influences include Andre Norton’s Scarface, Jane Yolen’s Pirates in Petticoats, Michael Jackson’s Captain EO, and Melinda Snodgrass’ Tears of the Singer.

Feel free to check out the truncated version of the story here.  If and when I sell the longer version, I’ll be sure to post it on my blog.  (And Facebook, and Twitter, and yelling in the streets … etc., etc.)


Unrelated to pirates, Haggis Rampant, the Louisiana-based bagpipe and bodhrán trio, was kind enough to recommend my children’s book R is for Renaissance Faire on their Facebook page. Copies are available through Amazon as either an e-book or a paperback, or if you prefer an autographed copy, through the Mid-South Renaissance Faire.


Photo credits:  the picture of R is for Renaissance Faire, open to the R page, is taken from the Haggis Rampant Facebook page and was briefly their cover picture.  The featured image at the top of this blog is a picture of Captain Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, and is in the public domain due to its age.

Huzzah for the 2nd Annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire!

A bonnie wench at Mid-South Renaissance Faire

Tired, but Triumphant

The second annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire (MSRF) ended yesterday. The Faire was August 20, 21, 27, and 28, from 10:00 to 6:00 pm, at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, TN. 7182 Mullins Station Road, Gate 10.

Why am I tired?

I was Lady Marbury, a lady-in-waiting in attendance upon Her Most August Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, daughter of His Late Majesty, King Henry VIII. A great honor, but an exhausting job.

Why do I feel triumphant?

Despite the rain, mud, and heat, the Faire was a success. We collected lots of food and clothing for the people who were flooded out in Louisiana. The children who were knighted by the queen were excited. The visitors to “the Shire of Shelby” cheered for the jousters, laughed at the comedians, and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Why is this important?

A, the next nearest RenFaire is a four-five hour drive from Memphis.

B, my children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire, was for sale at the MSRF.

Queen Elizabeth Tudor (portrayed by drama teacher Jen Wood-Bowien)

Queen Elizabeth I, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  God save the queen!

What is a Renaissance Faire?

A Renaissance Faire, or RenFaire, is a magical combination of live improvisational theater with audience participation, a living history display, fairy tales come to life, and a county fair, with food, music, and entertainment. ‘Tis a recreation of Renaissance life, with delicious treats to eat and drink, shows to watch, and things to buy.

Be sure to bring your wallets. The shopping is glorious, but the souvenirs ain’t cheap. And alas and alack, the food vendors can give lessons to highway robbers. (But the turkey legs are so good.)

Here’s a list of 22 things that RenFaires do better than dull reality. And here’s another list, of 17 reasons to love RenFaires. Some people even think RenFaires are better than Walt Disney World, but of course, that’s a matter of opinion.

Dame Fiona (left) jousting with Sir Devon.  Paragon Jousting.

Paragon Jousting -- Sir Devon vs. Dame Fiona

Pirates and puppets in Sea Beggar’s Bay.

Pirates and puppets are only part of what you'll see at the RenFaire.

Mid-South Renaissance Fair

Mid-South Renaissance Faire is a new fair, only in its second year. Some RenFaires, like Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin or Colorado Renaissance Festival are decades old. MSRF has jugglers, minstrels, magicians, demonstrations of fighting, pirates, fairies, lords and ladies, vendors, a canine costume contest, children’s activities, games for the whole family … too much to list.  If you’re in the tri-state area of the mid-south (western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi), I hope you were able to come. As I said before, the next nearest RenFaire is a four hour drive or more away. We may not be as big as other RenFaires, but there’s more than enough entertainment, shopping, food, and activities to keep your attention.

A map of the Shire of Shelby, the site of MSRF.
<span class="caption_text">Entertainment Schedule</span>

What shalt thou find at Mid-South Renaissance Faire?

Look at the map above. The MSRF has three stages, where musicians, magicians, jugglers, knife-throwers, and flame-swallowers perform.

The Wit’s End Tavern and Stage is the first performance area you’ll come to in the faire, just to the left of the main gate, and conveniently close to the food vendors. Buy a turkey leg and a tankard of mead (or lemonade, or soda pop, or bottled water) and sit and listen to Haggis Rampant, Wind, Wood, and Wire, Frieman the Minstrel,the Jackdaws, or Tip the Velvet.

The Unicorn Stage is officially the main stage; it’s down Lark’s Lane behind Gloriana’s Glade. There you’ll witness feats of skill and derring do: juggling, knife-throwing, fire-swallowing, fighting, and comedy. There you’ll marvel at Paolo Garbanzo, the only American to ever win the international competition to become the Official Jester of Muncaster Castle (also the letter J for jester in my book, R is for Renaissance Faire), Giacomo the Jester, and the Lords of Adventure.

The Mermaid’s Tail Pub and Stage is in Sea Beggar’s Bay, where you can drink root beer, mermaid’s tears (blue raspberry soda), or something stronger while you listen to the Bluff City Barnacles or the Jackdaws or watch the magician or the dancers. (It’s the Mermaid’s Tail in the official schedule, but the Mermaid’s Tale on the map. As Mad Queen Beth prepared both map and schedule, I don’t know which is the typo and which is correct. ‘Tis her royal prerogative to change her mind.)

Not an official stage, but you’ll find storytellers, magicians, leprechauns, musicians, dragons, and dancing fay at the Faerie Ring.

The Faerie Queene, accompanied by an Elfin Knight

The Faerie Queene, accompanied by one of her elfin knights, lends a touch of magic to the Renaissance Faire.

The bearded barmaid

Thou'lt see all manner of folk at the faire.

Why am I blogging about this RenFaire?

There are two reasons this particular RenFaire, MSRF, is exciting to me.

A, Last year, I was Goodwife Susan, a ticket taker and a waiting woman in the queen’s household. This year, I was Lady Marbury, a lady of the queen’s court.

B, my children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire, was available for sale at the merchandise tent. I took some time away from the queen’s court to sell autographed copies.

R is for Renaissance Faire is an alphabetic guide to what you might see and whom you might meet at a RenFaire: A is for archer, C is for craftsman, J is for jester, Q is for queen, etc. I’m hoping it will make a great souvenir. All the pictures but one were taken at the first annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire, and all the pictures but three were taken by my father-in-law, R. B. Macdonald.

R is for Renaissance Faire, by Susan Macdonald

What if I’m nowhere near Memphis?

If you’re too far away to attend Mid-South Renaissance Faire, fret not. (Or as the Scots say, dinna fash yerself.) There are RenFaires all over the USA and Canada. Check this link to find a RenFaire near you.

There’s even plans for a television show based on the behind the scenes antics of a RenFaire. It’s called RenFest, and the brilliant but quirky minds behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 are the ones putting it together.

Lord and Lady Marbury

Lady Marbury and Paolo Garbanzo

Lady Marbury, a lady-in-waiting to Her Most August Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I

Admittedly, I’m biased.  I was a volunteer at the MSRF this year and last year, and I’ll probably volunteer again next year.  However, Michael B. attended the Faire for the first time, and this is what he thought about it.

The site and dates for next year’s MSRF have not yet been determined.

Buy My Book!!!

R is for Renaissance Faire is now available in paperback or Kindle.

To purchase the paperback version for $12, click here.

To purchase the e-book for $7.99, click here.

Or come to the 2nd Annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire, where I will be selling autographed copies at a special price.

R is for Renaissance is an ABC book, intended for older readers, a photographic souvenir of a Renaissance Faire.  A is for archery, B is for bagpipes, C is for craftsman, etc.

You may also wish to purchase my collection of western short stories, Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid, available as an e-book only.  If so, click here.


If you’re in a Renaissance Faire mood, you could buy my book (full of beautiful pictures by R. B. Macdonald), or you could invest in the Kickstarter project for RenFest, a proposed sitcom set at a Renaissance festival, focusing on the conflicts between a new assistant manager who wants everything educational and historically accurate, and the general manager/entertainment director who’s more interested in fun and making a profit.  It’s being written and produced by the talented crew behind Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 RenFest – Can the MST3K Work Their Magic Through Kickstarter for a New Show?

Be sure to watch the trailer at the end of the article.  It’s hilarious.

Edward and Susan Macdonald at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, May 7, 2016.
[Photo by Ian Macdonald]

Edward and Susan Macdonald at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, May 7, 2016.

Tennessee Renaissance Festival

The 31st Annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival opened May 7, and my family and I went for opening day.

First, I’d like to give a “shout-out” and gramercy to Regions Bank.  After we parked and got out of the car, we headed for the main gate.  We saw a table with a line of people leading to it, and thinking it was the bag check (no outside food or drink, no firearms, no swords or knives unless peace-bonded), we got in line.  It wasn’t the bag check.  It was Regions Bank, and for Family and Community Appreciation Weekend, they were paying people’s admission … if you went to that table first instead of the ticket booth.  They even gave me an artificial rose for an early Mother’s Day present.  Since tickets are $22 for adults and my kids are too old to pay children’s prices, that was an $88 savings and very much appreciated.  Thank you, Regions Bank!  Gramercy.

Susan Macdonald, wearing muffin cap made by Mazelle Attiya.
Selfie showing my rose.

We arrived early, looking forward to the opening ceremony.  Alas, due to the crowd,  we could not see the opening ceremony (which started a few minutes late). Due to the lack of microphones, we could only hear a few words.  It had something to do with Mary, Queen of Scots plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Once through the gates, we greeted Paolo Garbanzo, world-famous juggler (and J is for Jester in my forthcoming book, R is for Renaissance Faire). We stopped at the festival’s official souvenir stand: keychains, magnets, postcards, t-shirts, canvas bags, stuffed animals, etc. My family and I volunteer for the Mid-South Renaissance Faire, so this trip was partly for fun, partly to upgrade our outfits for this summer’s MSRF, and partly to act as scouts, to see what TRF was doing well or poorly, so MSRF could learn from them.

We did some window shopping — there were roughly sixty merchants and artisans at Tennessee Renaissance Festival — before going to catch Paolo Garbanzo’s first juggling and fire-eating show.  Then we wandered past more vendors before meeting up with Jenn Kahn and Patrick Huston.  They looked fantastic in their garb; Jenn was the Faerie Queene at MSRF and Patrick was Captain of the Queen’s Guard.  My daughter went into the maze with Jenn’s daughter (they were fairies together at last year’s RenFaire) and won a Mardi Gras-style necklace for finding the center of the maze.  We wandered down by the falconry booth and past some games and clothiers.  My husband and I had our pictures taken with a Harris hawk.

Edward Macdonald, Susan Macdonald, and Mercedes (aka Sadie) the Harris hawk

Here is my only major complaint about TRF. When I went to the privies by the jousting field, there were no portable sinks nor any hand sanitizer.  None of the privies had portable sinks, although the other privies had hand sanitizer. Luckily, one of the nearby merchants was selling metal fountains (very pretty) and I was able to rinse off my hand in the running water of the fountains whilst pretending to admire them.  Note to “Mad Queen Beth” and the other head honcho-ish people of MSRF: be sure the privies have handwashing access as well as sufficient toilet paper.

Since we hadn’t had to pay for admission, our shopping budget was increased.  My husband bought a black and silver doublet at the clothier’s next to the falconry tent, and I seriously considered a pink tapestry bodice.  (I purchased a white brocade skirt at MidSouthCon, and am looking to upgrade my garb building an outfit around it.)

Renaissance faires are noted for their delicious food, and TRF was no exception.  For lunch the kids both had pizza, my husband had shepherd’s pie, and I had chicken and rice soup in a bread bowl. We let the kids have soda for lunch, although my husband and I had water, and we made sure the kids drank water throughout the day.  Even with all the shade provided by the many trees at TRF, dehydration is a possible risk at any RenFaire. I was pleased TRF had recycling bins shaped like Coke bottles throughout the faire site, although not nearly as many recycling bins as there were trash cans. Recycling bins are something MSRF will want to look into, even if they’re not as fancy as giant Coke bottles.

There was too much to see and do at TRF to do everything, although we tried.  We listened to Empty Hats, a Celtic folk band, and The Roses, a pair of lute-players. We listened to Rafferty the Piper. My daughter went to all three of Paolo Garbanzo’s shows, even though I suggested she try Tea with Lady Ettie or Buckle and Swash.  There were rides and games: ring toss, the maze, Jacob’s ladder, mug slide, several medieval and Renaissance themed throwing games, human-powered rides like the Hurlinator and the Flying Carousel, and a free children’s arts and crafts area.  We didn’t manage to do the free castle tour.  (The festival site owner built his own castle, and he and his family live there.)  There were comedians, magicians, play-actors, minstrels, jousting, falconry, knife-throwers, human chess … too much to see in one day.  Maybe next year we’ll get the two-day passes and stay for the whole weekend.

I know we didn’t manage to see all the vendors.  Henderson’s Hearth was listed in the program book, but I never found them, which is a shame as far as my kitchen is concerned (scone mix, jams, soup mix, etc.) but probably a good thing for my wallet.  My husband talked me into buying a red brocade gown at White Pavilion. It’s a step up from wenchwear (wenchware?), but not up to court standards yet, but it looks great with my white brocade skirt.  However, now I need to buy a new hat, as my muffin cap is too plain to wear with such a fine gown.  Ye Old Wizards and Dragons had some gorgeous dragon figurines; my son bought a steampunk dragon from them. Many weapons dealers — my son was upset that he wasn’t old enough to buy a knife or a sword yet. Lots of jewelry dealers … gorgeous merchandise.  Several tents of droolworthy artwork.  Toys for the younger ones, clothiers, candlemakers (you could make your own or buy a ready-made candle), pottery, leatherwork, wooden utensils and artwork (my daughter got a magic wand), hammocks and hanging chairs, bath soaps and oils, incense, tea, ocarinas.  My personal favorite was Pigasus Books; I may speak to him about R is for Renaissance Faire after I’ve got the galley proofs back from the printer.

We had a grand time, and although it was a long drive there and back, the trip was worth it.  It’s been years since we went to Tennessee Renaissance Festival, but I hope to go again next year or the year after.