McDADE — About 30 minutes east of Austin, Sherwood Forest Faire offers visitors a way to escape inside its quaint, forest haven. With a Robin Hood-inspired theme and feel, the smaller-sized renaissance festival offers plenty of entertainment, vendors, food and fun for the entire family.
After a few years’ hiatus, my girlfriend, Navina Bhatkar, returned to the forest and we found ourselves able to set up camp with a few friends again.
Because Sherwood lacks the scale and size of other festivals of its kind, patrons can get to a show or run back and forth to their campsite within a matter of minutes. Even better, prices overall feel pretty affordable, so taking an entire troupe of people won’t leave you breaking the bank.
In this particular trip, Navina and I spent most of our time wandering the grounds. Sure, I had a few shows in particular that I didn’t want to miss, but strolling up and down the hill and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in years felt more important initially.
From there, we decided to hunker down at our favorite gathering spot, the Lionheart Tavern, home to an enormous stage and plenty of tables and benches where large groups can sit, eat or enjoy the music. Soon, a band I haven’t heard perform before, The Jackdaws, started playing and both of us were taken aback about how good they sounded. Of course, the lead singer cracked jokes in between their playlist of mostly Irish songs, which we tended to enjoy a bit before moving on.
After that, Navina noticed a lady acting as a living statue. She giggled gleefully as the actress teased people who went up to tip her. While keeping her eyes closed, she played a lighthearted game of keep away, teasing her supporters, before finally giving them a keepsake in exchange. I might have chuckled a little bit when the GF had the exact same thing happen to her, only the exchange seemed to continue for much longer than previous victims’ experiences.
Soon, one of my favorite shows, the joust, pit knights dressed in full metal armor against each other. One of the biggest attractions of Sherwood, the Riders of the Golden Age, take turns trying to knock each other from their mounts, then have a short choreographed fight off their horses. A show fit for the entire family, show runners do a very good job of getting crowds invested and encouraging each side to cheer against the other side.
On April 16-17, Sherwood is hosting an actual jousting tournament with up to eight knights competing. This tournament will take place of the regular show, but the joust feels more like a spectator sport since many dismounts happen during the event. From years pasts, the tournament remains one of my favorite shows to watch every year.
Speaking of tournaments, Blunt Force Drama, a returning show presents combatants who throw barbs more than they clang weapons together and this show remains a must-see as always. While I often have described the adult-only combat tournament as professional wrestling with swords, it seems warriors use a variety of weapons now. The battlers, often spout lewd taunts as they deliver blows and some of the punch lines will have you rolling over in laughter. A panel of judges, volunteers picked before the contest begins, ultimately determine the winners and losers of each match. So, if you want to decide the outcome, get there early.
Around 2 p.m., Navina and I felt a bit groggy, and needed a place to just chill out for a while. We settled in near a small stage near the entrance of the festival, where Hawke performs his own show nearby. Usually associated with the more adult-oriented Bedlam Bards show, it was cool to see him perform an entirely different genre of music. We stuck around for some time as my girlfriend soon found it surprising that I recognized just about every song he sang. He even performed the classic “The Mermaid,” a goofy song about an old man who goes searching for a mermaid, after I requested it. Navina, of course, laughed in approval.
Instead of checking out the Pub Sing or the castle siege as normal, the GF and I opted to end the night at the Seven Sisters Stone Circle where a line of drummers and a circle of dancers began to gather. As the sun faded the fire closed out our night and first weekend of the faire. Sherwood continues every weekend until April 24. For more information, visit www.sherwoodforestfaire.com.