HOLLISTER — It’s time again to frolic in ye olde merry woods of Casa de Fruta.
The Northern California Renaissance Faire starts its weekend run Sept. 18 and goes through Oct. 24.
The adjoining grounds of the landmark Pacheco Pass fruit stand, restaurant, and kids amusement area has been converted into the 16th century village of Willingtown known as home to one of the finest market fairies in all of England celebrating the harvest.
If you’ve never been to a Renaissance Faire it is safe to say it is simply Medieval from the jousting tournaments to court jesters right down to the food — well, kind of given this is the 21st century and one must make accommodations for health codes and the Pepsi Generation.
The Faire is a feast not only for the stomach but for all of the other senses from sight to hearing and even touching.
Besides roaming entertainment, nine stages of scheduled entertainment, free rock concerts, period music, and royal spectacles there are more than 200 vendors offering everything from food and beverages — including adult brews — to games, rides, clothing, art, garlands and accessories, jewelry, perfume and incense, wood, leather, metal, and toys.
There are also those dabbling in the occult and palm readers. Even if you dismiss such things or give those practicing it high points for being able to read pulses, eye movements and such in response to verbal statements it can be pure entertainment plunking down some cash for a reading especially when done in the presence of family and friends.
Not only are the hundreds of “characters” and vendors in period costumes but also are many guests getting into the fun as well. You have the option of either dressing for the current century or coming in your best take of fashion from the Elizabethan era.
The entertainment can be racy. There’s the Naughty Minstrels and a slew of era appropriate humor acts. There are fire eaters, sword swallowers, the Sea Dogs specializing in maritime music and mirth, auditions in Shakespeare, an equine show, jousting tournaments, and more.
Games and activities you can partake in range from archery, axe theme, big swing, earth darts, giant strike, Good Shepherd games, javelins, knife throw, maypole carousel, pistol bows, Siege of Tortuga, Small Strike, and Starz.
There are more than two dozen other “fun things” ranging from a school of juggling, tarot card reading, fools maze, petting zoo, and much more.
There are workshops in the Past-Times Workshop Garden — both in-depth and shorter dabbler versions — throughout the afternoon for adults, families, and children. They touch on chain mail, archery, blackwork embroidery, and making peasant dolls and much more.
The Faire also offers theme weekends: God Save the Queen, Sept. 18-19; Pirate Invasion, Sept. 25-26; Heroes and Villains, Oct. 2 and 3; Oktoberfest, Oct. 9-10; Carnevale and Masquerade, Oct. 16-17; and Halloween Fantasy (you can even win prizes for best costume), Oct. 23-24.
There are five ale stands featuring meads, ales, ciders, and specialty drinks. The ale stands also offers draft beers, micro brews, wines, fountain sodas and drinks, and bottled water.
The food selection is epic from turkey legs, meat pies to sweet treats. There are literally hundreds of different offerings from meats, sandwiches, ice cream, cupcakes, biscuits with gravy, coffee, and pizza to gelato and fruit ice to fish and chips.
There are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free foods available.
The dining experience alone is worth driving through the countryside on Interstate 5 and Highway 152 to get there. Also featured is the tea with the queen daily at 4 p.m. You will dine with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The menu consists of scones, tea sandwiches, dessert and tea. The cost is $31 per adult and $15.50 per child. Reservations are strongly suggested.
You will find high quality artisan products in the marketplace from pewter to fiber art and everything in between.
Hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Single day admission is $30 while those 12 and under are free. Opening weekend tickets are $20 for Sept. 18-19 if they are purchased online.
All entertainment – except the Tea with the Queen event – is included in the price of admission. They accept Master Card, Visa, debit cards and cash. There are ATMs throughout the Faire.
Parking is a cash only affair that’s $10 per day. Exact change is required.
The Faire is wheelchair accessible but keep in mind all pathways are dirt. Shoes are required. Service animals are allowed but pets are not. The ADA guidelines that the Faire enforces to determine what a service animal is can be found on their website.
Smoking is only permitted in designated areas. You cannot bring in outside drink or food.
While coming in period costume is encouraged, there is no admission discount for doing so. If your costume includes a weapon they must be sheathed and peace tied. Exposed steel is not permitted. Bows must be unstrung and left at home.
The Faire is open rain or shine. No rain checks or refunds are offered. In the event of severe weather or an emergency the Faire may be closed without notice.
More about the Faire can be found at NorCalRenFaire.com.
To reach Casa de Frusta, take Interstate 5 and then head west over the Pacheco Pass via Highway 152.