By Richard Bleil
The year 1575 has been the longest year of which I am aware. In fact, it has been 1575 since 2001.
Ooh, a mystery!!!
It’s been one of the longest years I’ve ever seen, second only to the fact that I just celebrated my 27th 28th birthday. See, every Renaissance Fair chooses one year and one location which can be either real or imaginary. The Sioux Falls Ren Fair is based on the fictional English town of Shrewsbury, in the year 1575. This is the eighteenth year for the fair. It’s a volunteer fair (not commercial), one weekend a year, family focus with a focus on entertainment and education.
What truly surprises me is how few people know about the fair even in its home town. I’ve taken to discussing it with people, and it’s surprising how often I get the response, “We have a Ren Fair?” The Ren Group participates in a myriad of social and educational activities such as the Christmas Parade of Lights, the multicultural festival, library events and more. After eighteen years, how is it that the fair is such an unknown feature of the city?
I’ve attended the fair as an attendee, but mostly as a volunteer for years. It’s been a lot of long hard work, and even as I sit here with one more day of the fair left, I’m wondering if my feet will hold out, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like a member of the family, and am proud to be able to help make it a reality. It is truly a gem of the town.
Through the years, I have had the luxury of trying a multitude of activities. I have my scuba license, I am a minister and have performed several weddings, I’ve taken pilot lessons, attended sporting events, been to concerts and plays, traveled and more. I’ll be honest, I do have an “advantage” in that I have been largely single my entire life, which means I have had more available funding to throw at new things. Let’s be real; pilot and scuba lessons are not inexpensive, but there are so many things the people can do and try that are not expensive if only they have the courage to try them out.
For some reason, though, we humans tend to avoid trying new things. People love meat and potatoes, but will avoid at all cost something like Pho, a Vietnamese soup, because it has ingredients such as tripe (intestine lining) because it’s an exotic ingredient of which we are not accustomed. I love Pho myself, and have to admit that it took a conscious effort on my part to try it, but I did and now it’s a new favorite treat for myself. But even if I did not like it, my life would still be all the richer for having tried it. Frankly, I’m not a fan of hockey, but I did go to a few games. I love the coolness coming off of the ice, and enjoyed spending the time with my friends. If I don’t go again, I won’t feel any loss, but if the opportunity arises again, I know I would enjoy it with the right company.
When I taught, we had a marvelous Native American group that was very close to getting a national contract. Although it never materialized, they were kind enough to give a concert on campus. Few of my students went to this free event. Personally, I found a new favorite band.
From that point forward, I would charge my students to attend as many such events as possible. I would point out that good, bad or indifferent, such opportunities only arose because they were in college. Once they graduate, these opportunities are gone. Living in New York City, walking home one day, there were throngs of people in Central Park. As it turns out, the three tenors were giving a free concert. The opportunity to experience this was fortuitous and only possible because I was, at the time, in the city. That opportunity will never arise again.
Near you, there are wonderful odd, bizarre and quirky experiences to expand your world. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Take the opportunity to participate while you can; try that international restaurant, take that course you’ve been wanting to try, and go to that renaissance fair. In the long run, you will be better off, have a richer life, and wonderful experiences and anecdotes to share. Even with lemons thrown in with them, when all is done, you’ll find yourself with lemon cake.