A budget Renaissance

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by Jay Gabler | 9/1/09 • When I visited the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for the first time a couple of years ago, I was impressed at the scale of the thing but less impressed at the fact that what the hefty admission charge bought you was largely a chance to spend more money—on mead, lamb shanks, and sundry goblets. My friend Nalini and I had chosen to dress up in ironically futuristic garb, bearing in mind of course that in the future everyone will wear non-breathing garments like golden parachute pants and pink plastic raincoats. By the time we made it across the parking lot, which seemed to span several counties, we were pouring sweat and made it for only one turn ’round the fair before escaping to the nearest Culver’s for air conditioning and affordably-priced Butterburgers.

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Given that others may have had similar experiences (sans the golden parachute pants), today my service to you is to pass along information about two ways to take yourself back in time for the very affordable price of free.

First up is a performance this Friday night by local treasure Rick Griffith, whose Halloween show I wrote about for The Rake in 2007. “A performance by Griffith,” I wrote, “is something of a mellow little Renaissance Festival unto itself.”

On Friday, Griffith notes in an e-mail to his “Usual Suspects,” he’s aware that he’ll be competing with another local legend. “I’ll be playing some favorite lute tunes, reading some new finds from the world of verse and probably singing a couple of my silly songs. Oh sure, you could go see Garrison Keillor’s live Prairie Home Companion show at the Minnesota State Fair grandstand that night, but that would set you back about 25 clams (not counting Fair admission and parking) and I guarantee you won’t hear ‘The Frog Galliard’ or ‘Bert the Dog’ on Keillor’s show—plus, there’s no admission charge for my show (though contributions to my PSAF and purchases of CDs and whatnot are encouraged) and I’ll have free Lemonheads. Free Lemonheads. Free Lemonheads. The choice is (more or less) obvious. I hope you can make it. If you want, I’ll even wear red socks.” The show starts at 7 p.m. at Dave Thune’s Mad Hatter Coffee Café and Tea House, 945 W. 7th in St. Paul.

Then, on September 27th, Caponi Art Park, a groovy little Eagan spot I wrote about for METRO, is hosting a Medieval Fair that it’s very explicitly pitching as an affordable alternative to the RenFest. “The Renaissance Festival is great if you want to spend lots of money and stand in line forever for a turkey leg,” writes the park’s Heather Westerlund in a note to press. “If that’s not your cup of tea, here’s an event that won’t break the bank and will give you a hands-on history lesson about the Middle Ages: the Medieval Fair at Caponi Art Park and Learning Center! And the best part? It’s free! Spend an hour experiencing the Medieval Age world, then wander over to enjoy the Sculpture Garden. People all ages are looking for low-cost, fun things to do this year which is evident at the Art Park: park visitors and program attendance has doubled this season alone.” Like Griffith’s show, the event is free but modest donations are gently requested.

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