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Be naughty at the Sterling Renaissance Festival

Jousting is a jolly good spectator sport

The spectacle of platemail-clad competitors on horseback knocking each other to the ground with lances is riveting.

by Hal Legg

Be thee knave or noble, commoner or courtier, all of the Queen's subjects are hereby summoned to the Sterling Renaissance Festival & Summer Marketplace. Full of Elizabethan merriment, the Faire is celebrating its 20th year of reenactment. More than 600 characters carousing across the 35-acre setting will pull you back in time to 1585 and the cultural awakening in the Village of Warwick.

The shire comes alive with more than 80 stage and street performances for seven weekends during the summer. The Queen's procession will lead you into the 16th century for a day full of adventure. Shakespearian plays, artisans' demonstrations, delectable victuals and games of skill await you.As a veteran of the Sterling Renaissance Festival, I recommend any of the performances at the Mud Pit or Frogge Pond. Above all, the Joust is the one must-see event. The spectacle of platemail-clad competitors on horseback knocking each other to the ground with lances is riveting.

There is one bit of advice I would give to first-time visitors: plan your time. Familiarize yourself with the map and schedule provided at the gate and select four or five events to see. Arrive at the destination of each show at least 15-20 minutes prior to its listed starting time.

Between shows, take part in the entertainment unfolding around you. Characters are not limited to written lines delivered on stage. Remember, the actors are inhabitants of Warwick, behaving (or misbehaving) in a manner true to their positions in English society.

You might unknowingly join the unscripted action—swordsmen may duel for the hand of a lady, urchins will beg for food. Don't be timid. It's all part of the unconventional street theater at the heart of the Faire. Have fun with the wenches, minstrels, shopkeepers and lords.

If nothing else, it is polite to beseech her majesty: "God save the Queen!" Likewise, you should save some room for a spinach pie or turkey leg. Granted, not all of the food is authentic Elizabethan cuisine, but it is delicious. For a treat, order a Queen's Latrine at the Baked Potato & Fried Foods booth. You won't find it on the posted menu. It's an "insider" special. Enjoy.

If you go:
·The Renaissance Festival & Summer Marketplace. 800-879-4446. Located on Farden Road in Sterling, Cayuga County, less than 90 minutes from Rochester or Syracuse. Open rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, July 5 - August 17.

Hal Legg misbehaved behind a concession stand for two seasons at the Faire. He got his kicks by shouting, "I want all the STUPID people to line up here, and all the SMART people to line up over there." And they did.

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