Every year, year, I take my family to two big events here in Colorado: the Renaissance Festival (in Larkspur, Co) and the Colorado State Fair (in Pueblo, Co). I enjoy both those events (even if my wallet does not). It’s a time to spend with my wife and the kids (and the occasional family and friends). Do something that's different than our everyday routine
Driving back from the state fair, I began to think how I could use what I saw/did to help make my adventure better, to breathe life into it. You see I am currently writing an adventure that uses a major fair/festival as its background. I wanted to see if I could "medievalize" my day's visit. Without any books or actual references, I tried to break down the fair into a number of elements (everyone else was sleeping in the car so using that time for gaming allowed me to stay awake).
How different were medieval fairs to the one I just attended? What elements of the fair were the same? Which ones were different? How did they differ? How could my experience add details in my adventure? Assuming I were a "typical" inhabitant (which I am), how would I react to impromptu events?
So I tried the following break-up.
- Performers This group includes acrobats, jugglers, dancers, even painters. Entertainers perform a variety of stunts and acts of daring that amazes and fascinates the common man. I am a sucker for jugglers myself because I have tried a number of times and… well I write RPGs.
- Tasty/Unique Foods Nothing to say about how good there are for us. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs and the other dishes make those events stand out. Every year, I keep my stomach open for a turkey leg and a corndog.
- Vendors Another staple includes vendors. Many offer items one does not find in their usual stores. While many vendors are just outlets for the local big-wigs (like the phones or cable companies), many are quite unique, and are what I seek out most at the fair.
- Animals While some animals fall in the category of Performers, animals also include those involved in competitions, and the every-popular petting zoo. My kids LOVE the petting zoo and seeing the little piglets, horses/ponies, goats and bunnies. I will admit there is something about watching or petting animals that call to the kid in all of us. I personally find the horses to be quite nice.
- Musicians Concerts and music are an intrinsic part of those events. I will sit and listen to a few tunes from a country music band, then walk up to a Latin band and then to a rock band. Music is everywhere and to me, it helps create the event. Many of the tunes there are not my usual bands, and that makes it special.
- Competitions/Contests From lumberjack contests, to animal rustling, to sandcastle building, to animal judging to the local radio station madness, contests involve people or animals performing and winning prizes. I would generally not travel to witness a number of competitions that take place at the fair, I stop and watch kids run after a sheep or lumberjacks speed cutting a log.
- Games The Simpsons gave us The Carny Code which was a great episode. Those are games that involve throwing a basketball or a baseball or placing rings on coke bottles. I was never very good at those so I do not participate (one of the few things I can save money on).
- People The biggest reason to attend local fairs? People. Lots and lots of people. The crowd is what makes everything come alive and binds all of the above together. A group of people watching something will draw you in to see what is going on. Walking around the fairground makes me feel as though I was part of something big. I also like the mix of people, races, influences all coming together without conflict. Everyone gets together at the fair, no matter their size, race, color, affiliation, or style. All are part of the event and I like that.
With some of those elements in mind, I drifted off to fantasy aspects of fair. How different would the fair be if magic and other fantasy races were present? However, I found that fantasy really added nothing to those basic elements of the fair. Sure, it added some unique extras, but nothing to add really. I could replace the horses with a pegasus, turkey legs with dire chicken (hummmm dire chicken drumstick...), or the acrobats with flying wizards, but the elements of the fair remained the same. The people of different color/background would become elves and dwarves and halflings and gnomes.
Looking back on the article, this will really add to my adventure. Not so much in the form of encounters or challenges, but in the form of flavor, minor elements and potential subplots.
Oh! And it made the drive home go really fast...