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.)