Renaissance Pleasure Faire Review – From Knights in Shining Armor to Naughty Wenches Galore

Photography By Greg Autry*

May 11, 2017

The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, more commonly called,  the Renn Faire in Southern California, is oft remembered for its early days of “Hippies,”  the wafting aroma of “marijuana,” interspersed with day and night “wild” parties and the kids of the sixties `Getting their Groove On,’ `Letting Loose,’ `because it was all about Free Love Baby!’


Those early portrayals were accurate to a point. I know, because I was there. However, I must report to you that today’s Renn Faire in Southern California owes more to a 1960’s high school teacher, than to the Hippy movement of the sixties.


Phyllis Patterson, left her position teaching high school English and history, taking a part time job at a neighborhood youth center doing backyard drama and art presentations for nearby elementary school children.


Phyllis and her husband Ron Patterson, created what would become the two premier costume Fairs in the country, one in San Francisco, and one in Southern California all fueled by Phyllis’ love of the Elizabethan period. Phyllis Patterson’s passion remained until the 80’s, where she maintained strict control over proper costumes worn by performers and vendors, offering classes in both costuming, and the correct use of the `Language of the Tymes.’ She was after all, always a teacher, and the Faire was always intended as a live performing school, to teach and to enthrall all who came.

The Fair's spawned the non-profit Living History Center, founded by Ron and Phyllis Patterson, to ensure year round programs offering the opportunity for children to learn about authentic folk history. The tradition has grown today, with visitors donning their own costumes and amercing themselves into the Family of the Fair.  Today, Ron and Phyllis’ son, Kevin Patterson, keeps up the storied family tradition by running the Great Christmas Dickens Fair, in San Francisco. The Dickens Fair today is operated with the same loving care and attention paid to detail and authenticity as their mother would surely have wanted. I have previously written two Articles in Review of the Dickens Fair, which you can see here at Splash Magazine.



The Southern California, `Original Pleasure Fair’ is no longer owned by the Patterson family, who sold to Corporate Interest many years ago. The Southern Renn Faire has taken-on a life of its own, generating pleasure for thousands upon thousands every Spring, this year’s Fair running from April 8th  through May 21st, at the Santa Fe Recreation area, in Irwindale, California. About 25 miles, or a half-hour drive, North East of downtown Los Angeles.


Today, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, where fantasy rules and whimsical delights take flight, where worlds co-exist and dreams come to life! You will immerse yourself in a village of more than 1,600 costumed performers and artisans including dazzling acrobats, internationally acclaimed musicians and entertainers, juggling jokers and jesters, willful wenches…and jousting knights are ready to celebrate!  Complete with 16th Century games, rides, arts, crafts, food, music and dance, recreating the celebratory spring day in 1574 when the world arrived to entertain Queen Elizabeth in the English Seaport of Deptford.


You will find entertainment galore, on thirteen stages of nonstop entertainment, come to life with continuous performances from 10am until 7pm everyday!  The 2017 entertainment lineup features a wide variety of acts, from jousting to aerial silk dancers, from jugglers to musicians, from still walkers to magicians. There is something for everyone. This year, we are featuring new acts such as mesmerizing musicians Duende, wonderfully interactive One Man Romeo and Juliet, magician Arsene Dupin in The Magikhana Show and funnymen, Sound and Fury


Welcomed back to the Faire stages are Aaron Bonk Whip Artist, the Tortuga Twins, along with special guest appearances from Quarter Master, The Britton Ensemble, Passado Action Theater and Wiggins Faerie Lore Magician.  Faire favorites with the likes of, The Magnif’cent, The Clan Tynker Family Circus, and Brandon Scott: The Wizard of Wonder


Sing along with the beloved The Poxy Boggards and The Merry Wives of Windsor and dance along with Seraphim Arabesque.  Feel the thunder of the Jousters and the gust of wind ruffle your hair as the Birds of Prey fly just inches above you.  -And of course, be sure to meet our beautiful and gracious, Queen Elizabeth.  Back again, are two of my favorites,  MooNie, and of course  Broon.



The Marketplace offers a variety of over 125 high caliber artisans in the village marketplace is sure to appeal to everyone. Nowhere else can you find the combinations of artists who will demonstrate their skill at blowing glass or forging iron, create a perfectly authentic article of renaissance clothing, or fashion a one of a kind piece out of exotic leathers. Whether you fancy delicately formed gold jewelry or prefer to sport a manly drinking horn about your neck, there are crafts to outfit yourself and your home. Children delight in having their face painted, their hair braided or finding a new puppet friend. Arts and crafts workshops such as Celtic drawing, beadwork and basket weaving are offered for all ages at Queens College.



Not to be missed is the amazing array of Food and drink. Er, “excuse me fine sir, Drynke!”
The Renaissance Pleasure Faire offers some of the finest festival food. Boasting local and internationally trained chefs, twenty-three food vendors offer an array of foods from fish and chips and sausages to salads and sorbets.  Vegetarian and Vegan entrees and desserts are available.  Our Pub Crawl is offered twice each day.  On your journey, you will visit five of our village pubs for a time to tell jokes, make toasts and play games while enjoying the company of Deptford’s many characters.  This will sell out, so stop by the Guest Services Gazebo inside the front gate to sign up! 


Special events and themes are offered each weekend during Faire season, and there is always something new and fun to find while exploring the “Shire.”  The proper word , for `the town’, or `Village,’  of course !


I attended those early Fair’s in seventies, and became a full time Fair devotee in the eighties, when the Faire was held in Devore. I’ve seen the Fair go from a somewhat raucous affair, to what is today, a delightfully fun, family experience, which still upholds many of the traditions established so long ago.


I’ve been to other Fairs and the Southern Renn Faire, is the best. No others I’ve been to, have the sense of family and community. Southern Faire has a sense of family that enshrouds performers, vendors, and patrons all. Seeing my friends each year, catching up on family and friends, checking out everyone’s new costumes, and plans for next season’s costumes, offers endless hours of unimaginable fun as everyone cavorts about.  There is always a new Pirate shirt to buy, or a Corset for the ladies, trying your hand at archery, and don’t forget the new zip line. Can’t find someone, well then, head over to Rogues Reef, for sure `thar be good drynke and Naughty Wenches.’


There is no limit to the fun, nor Ale, nor to the naughty wenches. The Knights in shining armor offer gallantry that cause the Ladies to swoon, and the grace of the powerful  steeds they mount give rise to the notion of a tyme long ago. A place where gentlemen are called “Sirs,” and the Wenches, ”My Lady.”

Come and see for yourself, this year before May 21st, and you will be back next year for sure.  I’ll see you there, for sure.

All Images ©2017GregAutry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




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