HOLLISTER — All of the ‘ye olde merry woods’ of Casa de Fruta is a stage.
And it’s reminiscent of the way the original Shakespearean actors performed during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth.
It is why the Northern California Renaissance Faire is far from simply being a street fair type event on steroids.
Roaming Renaissance Era enthusiasts — calling them actors is an understatement of medieval proportions — roam the ‘woods’ staying in character as they do.
It’s usually not hard to pick them out from paying customers that come dressed like it’s 1599 or opt to treat themselves head-to-toe by shedding their 2023 threads for the day by visiting an onsite costume rental tent.
They’ve got the clothes.
They’ve got the lingo.
They’ve got the mannerisms.
It is what makes the Renaissance Faire a great people watching place.
That said, a visit isn’t just simply an interactive play of sorts.
It is a grand reason to eat, drink and be merry.
After all, the beloved queen is honoring the woods with her royal presence.
Authenticity is the template.
The eight-hour step back in time — should you choose to be the first one in and the last one to leave the ‘woods’ — clearly has more than a few modern-day concessions.
And you don’t have to be in character nor costume to enjoy fine food and drink, jousting tournaments, master artisans, talented stage performers, musical concerts, and fun family activities as you join a colorful cast of characters in the bustling village of Willingtown.
A small army of actors and volunteers transform the ye olde merry woods of Casa de Fruta west of Pacheco Pass into a place of mirth where you can spend an entire day and frolic as commoners and princes as if it were 1599.
Now open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 22, the Northern California Renaissance Faire replicates the faire revelry from the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth from 1558 through 1603.
As such, the event lets you experience England’s Golden Age.
It’s when poetry, music and literature blossomed.
The likes of William Shakespeare and many others composed plays that broke free of England’s past style of theatre. It was an age of exploration and expansion abroad.
It also was the end of an era when England was a separate realm before forming a royal union with Scotland.
To replicate the feel of that time, 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 faires celebrating the harvest in all of England.
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 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.
There is a vendor that offers costumes to rent for all ages and body sizes. Child costumes range from $8 to $25 with the average price $15 while adult costumes range from $18 to $65 with the average price $39.You can view options in advance by going to thebelrose.com/ and click on Renaissance Faires for details on how it works.
The entertainment can be racy.
The various daily shows and a brief description includes:
* The Village Follies
Just as the Lord Mayor and his wife are set to celebrate their Anniversary and renew their vows, a wild pack of drunken revelers land in Willingtown creating chaos at every turn. Will this be the end of a well-planned party or will the mischievous Village Matriarch spin a scheme that keeps everyone confused and guessing. Folly ensues daily on the Royal Garden Stage at 3:30 p.m.
* The Mermaid Tavern Show
The naughtiest show in the shire returns after a short hiatus. The lovely, lusty wenches from the wrong side of town bring their bawdy songs and unforgiving humor to The Salty Siren Stage three times daily. Located in the Dockside Alley for adults 21 and over, these musical Mermaids invite you to grab an ale and sit a spell while they playfully ponder life on the driest docks in Derbyshire.
* The Queen’s Royal Reception
The Villagers are beside themselves preparing for a visit from their beloved Sovereign. The revels are prepared and Willingtown’s first family is ready and eager to greet Her Most Royal Majesty. What they were not prepared for is the danger and intrigue that is traveling beside her.
It’s at 2 p.m. on the Main Royal Garden Stage.
* The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Merry Wives of Windsor return to Willingtown to serve up saucy songs of drinking, love, and what happens when the two combine. With a blend of original tunes and traditional melodies with their own lyrical twist, the Wives have delighted audiences for over 20 years all across the country.
Sept. 30/Oct. 1; appearing at the Dockside Ally on the Salty Siren Stage, three times daily. 21 and over.
* Tea & Strumpets
Tea & Strumpets is a comedic, musical stage show with a little something extra. Imagine yourself enjoying a nice “cup of tea” with these Strumpets. The “Strumpets” love to sing and dance and entertain with their colorful array of musical, comedic, content.
Four weekends only, Sept 23/24, Oct. 7/8, Oct. 14.15 & Oct. 21/22; Appearing three times a day on the Salty Siren Stage. 21 and over.
* The Sea Dogs
What do you do with a drunken sailor? These legendary masters of maritime music answer that age old question in song. Ever dreamed of learning a sea shanty? This is your chance! The Sea Dogs practically invented them.
Twice daily on The Main Royal Garden Stage and also on The Coughing Sheep Stage.
* Cy the Sword Swallower
A man of skill, a man of danger and some would say … a complete lunatic. Cy is a master of the blade. Witness him swallow a whole armory of swords of different shapes and sizes ranging from the smallsword to the curved scimitar. No two shows are the same.
Four times daily on the Romany Camp Stage.
* Dirty Laundry
Wet dirty women and good clean fun is what this show is all about. These hilarious wenches will teach the unsuspecting a thing or two about cleaning up their acts and how to dish dirt with the best of them.
Three times daily on the Amethyst Arbor Stage.
* Shelly the Fiddler
Enjoy lively country dance tunes from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Fun for the whole family. Dance around the hay bales, request a jig, get inspired to join the music, fall in love with the lilt, toast to the merriment.
Twice daily on the Storybook Stage and once on the Coughing Sheep Stage.
* The Merry Larks
The Merry Larks will delight you with their toe-tapping tunes of country life and festive falderal! Join these musical merrymakers as they share songs of birds, belles, and beer.
Three times daily on the Coughing Sheep Stage.
* Blame the Whiskey
Singing songs of the rebellious Erin’s Isle, these Irish rogues will capture your hearts.
Performing four times daily on the Salty Siren Stage at The Dockside Alley and alongside the wenches of the Mermaid Tavern.
* A Fairy’s Tale
Sit with Willingtown’s resident storyteller, as she spins tales of fairies, witches, trolls and more. Nathalie’s stories are full of magic and wonder and are perfect for young children, children at heart and everyone in between.
Three times daily on the Storybook Stage.
* The Willy Nilly Show
Willy Nilly turns Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies into wild, silly fun for the whole family with non-stop comedy and interactive hilarity. Willy Nilly brings you in on the action with whips, tricks, quips, sock puppets, and sword fights.
Four times daily on the Amethyst Arbor stage.
* Minstrels of Misrule
This lusty band of worldly London notables and their hapless hangers-on from the countryside will have you entranced and in stitches with their roaring, bawdy musical tales and witty ruminations on the meaning of life, itself.
Appearing in various locations within the village, both on the Salty Siren, 21 and over stage and on the Coughing Sheep Stage, daily.
With a wit drier than a desert, Broon will have you giggling all day. He’s a comedian with a juggling problem. He doesn’t really eat fire to impress the crowds, he just likes the taste of kerosene.
Four times daily on the Romany Camp Stage.
* Pye Powder Court
Seeking justice? The court is in session. Come watch the local riff raff exasperate the judge with their petty squabbles and chaotic antics in the hilarious and bawdy faire classic, Pye Powder Court.
Once a day on the Salty Siren Stage. 21 and over.
* How to Audition for Shakespeare
Ever wanted to be a part of the works of Shakespeare? Here’s your chance to work with Ned Alleyn, Shakespeare’s most prominent actor in this unscripted, interactive opportunity to discuss the Bard’s plays or step on stage and perform. Script scenes can be provided or prepared monologues are welcome as well. Ned will help guide aspiring performers to prepare for the stage. All ages welcome.
On the Storybook Stage daily.
* Jared Rock
Hear the sweetest of melodies dancing through the air! Jared Rock plucks and strums his lute, performing some of the earliest music printed in England.
Three times daily on the Storybook Stage.
* Equine Show
The Royal Equine Guild presents their rare collection of exquisite Gypsy Vanner horses and other magnificent breeds from across the land to Her Majesty the Queen.
Just prior to each joust, at 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30.
* The Queen’s Royal Joust
Armed with lances, swords and shields, The World Tournament of Champions Joust Troupe presents jousting, sword fighting, and games of skill for Her Majesty’s pleasure. The World Tournament of Champions features an experienced and professional team of Knights that collectively have been entertaining the masses for decades. Crossing lances is only the beginning of the fun and excitement this group delivers.
Enjoy the Queen’s Tournament of Games at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. and watch the Knights compete for the title of Champion in a full combat joust.
* Last Call
Come set a spell with the residents of Willingtown as they ring out the day in song. The Sea Dogs, The Naughty Minstrels and friends share laughter, ale and songs of revelry.
The dining experience worth driving through the countryside on Interstate 5 and Highway 152 to get there 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 $33 per adult and $16.50 per child. Reservations are strongly suggested. You also get a teapot to take home.
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.
There are five ale stands featuring meads, ales, ciders, and specialty drinks. The ale stands also offer 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.
You will find high quality artisan products in the marketplace from pewter to fiber art and everything in between.
Single day admission is $35 while those 12 and under are free. All entertainment 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.
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.