Were you outside Sunday afternoon? Kind of like summer, right? Hot, sunny, sticky, sweaty... the sort of day when really the last thing you'd want to be wearing was layers of fur, full-body leather gear, and/or twenty pounds of chain mail. But that didn't stop the hardcore Rennies from rocking exactly that—and much more, a lot of it hand-crafted and homemade—as they and legions of less-committed fans (really dude, Burger King crown?) packed Inwood's Fort Tryon Park for the 30th Annual NYC Medieval Festival.
If you've been to this event in recent years you know what to expect. There were re-enactors demonstrating, and often selling, their ancient crafts, from sword- and other nasty-looking-weapon-making (this is very popular), to sprang, which is a "weft-less" method of weaving
textiles (this is much less of a crowd-pleaser). There were clanging battles among knights; "live chess" matches which also featured clanging battles; displays of falconry and period musical performances; full-on jousts, which so jammed the stadium with spectators there was no way even to get close; and a staggering number of people gnawing on smoked turkey legs, with fried dough and pickles-on-a-stick running a way distant second.
The best parts of the Medieval Festival are the Rennies and their ilk, who put an awesome amount of creativity, love, and, often, historically-accurate effort into their outfits. Sure, some folks just slip on a store-bought Pokeman costume and prance around, which is
fine, but get into a conversation with the man who makes his own arrows, or the guy who spent 350 hours bending little bits of metal for the dragon-adorned chain mail on his chest, and you (or, at least, I) can't help but admire the level of passion.
Anyway, it gets unpleasantly crowded in certain sections of the park by mid-afternoon, especially around the food booths, but there are pockets of sanity throughout, especially if go early. And if you've never been to Fort Tryon Park, the views of the Hudson River and the
Palisades beyond are spectacular.