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Oldest American Renaissance Faire Hires It’s First Female Jouster

I admit it, I’ve only been to one Renaissance Faire, but in my defense I was in costume. I still have the costume. I just need a new bodice for it. And while there are a lot of different things to go see at a Renfaire, jousting is probably at the top. I mean, where else are you going to see that?

Okay, Medieval Times.

But let’s face it, nerds need to get out in the sunshine somehow, and Renfaire is one of the best ways to do it. This summer, if you head on over to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, CA, you can watch Virginia Hankins become the first woman jouster in RPF history cross lances with the rest of the knights.

It had never occurred to me to wonder how long Renaissance Faires have been around, but in retrospect it’s kind of an obvious question. After all, we had to have the Renaissance first, and then I doubt there was much interest in reenacting it shortly after it happened. As it turns out, Wikipedia tells me that interest in Renaissance culture surged in 1950′s US, culminating in the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in southern California, a week-long fundraiser for a radio station. The RPF has kept going from those beginnings, and now stands as the oldest Renaissance Faire in the country, which makes their acceptance of a lady knight something pretty cool.

Now, while egalitarianism is awfully nice, I’m sure the RPF is also anticipating a crowd showing up for a lady knight at the joust, and frankly, I don’t mind it. Because I’d love to be part of that crowd.

Stuntwoman Virginia Hankins has made something of a career out of her skills with a horse, a sword, and a bow; most notably standing in for Joan of Arc in the Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror episode of Deadliest Warrior, and this won’t be her first time at the joust at a Renfaire, nor will it be her first time working the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She’s previously served the Faire as a squire, so it’s fitting enough that she eventually be promoted to knight.

And, yes, she’s already aware that her hair and talents give her a resemblance to a certain upcoming film that The Mary Sue is intensely interested in:

Hawkins’ site is here, with plenty of pictures and info about her qualifications, and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire’s site is here. Maybe you’ll be in a position to check it out? Don’t worry if you don’t have a costume, you’ll be just fine. Alternatively, if you happen to have an old Star Trek costume lying around, throw a single piece of arguably period appropriate gear on over it (like a fur vest or a leather belt), and go as a member of an away team attempting to visit a primitive culture without giving away their identity. See how many Faire workers you can get to play along.

(NBC via Anon.)


  • Elizabeth-Amber Delaney

    Oh man! The resemblance is amazing! We can honor our first female jouster — wonder if she has to fight for birth control.

  • Ividia Kt

    Now I REALLY need to get out there this year!  

  • Heidi Mason

    … I totally read that as “jester” at first. *shame*

  • John Wao

    Who wore it best?

  • Jaycee Grey

    “…hires ITS first female jouster”

  • Maiasaura

    Hey, a lady jester would be pretty cool, too!

  • Heidi Mason

    “A Jester? A Jester? A funny idea, a jester!” Thanks Maiasaura :)

  • Jose Alfonso Villalobos

     Flesh and blood beats animation every time. Sorry Pixar.

  • Anonymous

    I already have my tickets to go with friends in April. Now I’m even more excited about it (my previous excitement stemmed mostly from food-related thoughts of shepherd’s pie and ale and lamb stew..)

  • Leah Nardo

    Hair…so pretty…job…so badass…can I be her when I grow up?

  • Kath

     That hair <3

  • Sarah Ann

    Not only the first female jouster, but if I’m not mistaken this is also the 50th anniversary of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  So that’s pretty freakin’ awesome too.

  • Anonymous

    That’s Step One.

    Step Two, enter the competition on Full Metal Jousting:

    Step Three: Win.

  • Zharre

    Haha, thank you. I was hoping I wasn’t the only one bothered by that.

    Misplaced apostrophes are one of my biggest pet peeves!

  • Maiasaura

    Haha, I may be biased by the response paper I just had to write about an adaptation of Twelfth Night where the jester was played by a woman.

  • Anonymous

    I love that Ren Faire! I’ve been going for the last 10 years, and it’s always a blast (though i am incredibly sad that the Bold and Stupid Man Show is no longer there.) I’ll make a point of going to the joust this year!

  • Jeremy Sadler

    That shot above (the full version on her official site) of her on horseback in full armour, red hair flowing wild and free behind her… wow. A true Warrior Princess.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, this is not true; great as she may be, she is NOT the first female jouster to go full out in competition against the guys. I know of two female jousters who were jousting in full contact bouts over 20 years ago. Primarily Kate Cox, wife of Roy Cox has been jousting just as well as the ‘boys’ for many years. She’s awesome to watch.!i=14236570&k=kiS9d 

    Some of us have been around since almost the beginning of Renaissance Faires and do know our history, both of faires and of the actual times.  I know other women who fight in the SCA in full armour and full out.

    So I’m sure this gal is nifty but please, check your facts before making the claim of “first” here. 

  • Jill Pantozzi

    The article didn’t say she was FIRST first, just first at the fair in Irwindale. Those examples you linked are for other faires, no?

  • Anonymous

     HOLY CRAP!   Pixar should hire her for a “Brave” faire when it comes out, she can joust and kick all the guys butts!

  • Anonymous

    That is true but all of the comments seem to think she’s *the* first. Nickpicking, I suppose, but if I was a female jouster I’d be pissed.  And it doesn’t pay to piss off jousters.

  • Anonymous

    Poo, sorry….comment posted in the wrong place.

  • Anonymous

    That is true but all of the comments seem to think she’s *the* first. Nickpicking, I suppose, but if I was a female jouster I’d be pissed.  And it doesn’t pay to piss off jousters.

  • Wulfy

    I’m in love.

  • Don Kilcoyne

    I’m sure the guests at the Pleasure Faire will be as awestruck by this beautiful Lady Combatant as the guests at the New York Renaissance Faire were when the mighty and lovely Maid Marian (my Bride and Joy Kelly Kilcoyne) rode out in armor to smack down the Sheriff of Nottingham ten years ago. Best of luck to Virginia. I can’t wait to see her in action!

  • Nuchtchas

    I was thinking the same thing as I read this, while they do say it’s the first jouster at this Renn Faire, it does imply that this is groundbreaking and aa first for women.  The CT Renn Faire has a female jouster (that my little niece was enamored with) and most of the jousters I know are women, the fact that it took this Renn Faire so long to get a female jouster is a little sad.  BUT, awesome for her and she does seem cool.  I hope many more young girls are inspired by her.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, very cool!  I want so badly to come visit some of the East Coast faires; I have so many friends out there (Tony Korol-Evans, to begin with!)

    Yes, she does seem awesome. I didn’t mean to give the impression at all that I didn’t wish her the very best.  It’s not an easy world for a woman to compete and I wish all of them great success.  I know many fine jousters (Noble Cause guys are dear friends, as is Roy Cox from long ago.)

  • Brian

    Dangit, Don, I was just making to post that.

  • Darren McDonald

    If the author believes Medieval Times is jousting, she really should get out more. True some Ren Faires only do theatrical jousting, but many (and growing) are performing a real joust with just a few exceptions (balsa tips) for safety and theatrics.
    I’m very happy to see more women getting involved in jousting. Doesn’t hurt the attention factor that they are beautiful, too.

  • Jen Brinkman

    Also, it’s Hankins, not Hawkins as they typed in the final paragraph. *headdesk*

  • Jpace

    Guess I’m the only one that thought the Faire was supposed to “try” to be accurate. Woman jouster?  Hey can I get a Frapachinno and a Dodger Dog while I watch the “period” joust?

  • David White

    If she knows so much about archery, why the hell is her finger wrapped around the arrow. Knowledge fail, sweetheart.

  • David White

    If she knows so much about archery, why the hell is her finger wrapped around the arrow. Knowledge fail, sweetheart.