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February 2nd, 2015

Belated: Ren in the Glen 2014

Having had a very good time at the Siouxland Renaissance Festival this past year, even with the tiredness from working Friday night and possible dehydration issues while trying to be an upstanding centaur, I decided to see if there were other faires or festivals that would be workable in terms of calendar timing and driving distance - and appeal. Most were too far away, a few were timed awkwardly, one was simply not of interest. Two stood out. One was Sioux City Riverssance and the other was one I'd not heard of before: Ren in the Glen near Glenwood, WI. This was relatively close and in late July. That's almost ideal. Really, only Siouxland is more convenient. And it was also close enough for my mother and a friend of hers to make a trip for the faire. What got their attention, and mine, was that one featured act was Pizpor the Magician, who is talented enough to make a great show out of "bad" tricks.

The faire, we eventually discovered, was formed as sort of byproduct of the collapse of the Chippewa Falls faire. "We have a much better idea of who not to deal with now." was said. This was not the first year, for Glenwood, but the third. We were told it has grown considerably, but it's taking a slow and steady approach to growth rather than overambitiously burning out as so many events do. It has a very "small Iowa faire" feel to it, which is a Good Thing. While one isn't likely to see many Iowa folks there, the feel is similar - and there were some Iowa/Sioux Falls people, such as Thread Bear (woven stuff). A "Nishna" feel was mentioned - Nishna being a faire that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but was a lot of fun.

A couple of the more memorable vendors were a candy vendor with a good variety of fudge and "old time" flavors like sassafras and clove, and a beer vendor who had some good stuff - this was not a place to get Budweiser or Miller or Coors. The main food was of a reasonable selection for the size and location of the event. I doubt even a picky eater would have been left hungry. If that wasn't enough, a few vendors had a snack or drink sideline.

We really only saw a couple shows. I had to work Friday night again and napped (or tried to) while underway on Saturday morning, so I had only a few hours of real consciousness before pretty much collapsing at or after supper (which wasn't at the faire, but at a place - the Norske Nook - famous for its pies, and whose location I misremembered). After a good night's sleep, I was more awake for Sunday and the weather was a bit better, sunny rather than occasional drizzle. And that's when Pizpor had a show where things really, really clicked.

Pizpor's show is quite good, but sometimes there isn't much of an audience due to weather or it's late in the day and the general energy is ebbing. But this was his second show of the day. The weather was ideal. The crowd was, for the location, large, and things just went right. At one point a troupe of belly dancers sat down to watch and I turned, facing away from the stage (knowing Pizpor would find a way to work with it) and told them, "The view is better this way." which they appreciated. Not much later, sure, enough, he asked about the situation. "He says the view is better this way!" and after a bit more of the show, something must have not gone quite right and he suggested, "Why don't we all look away from the stage?" Other bits went on as expected, or rather, as hoped. One bit involves the "infamous" rope trick ("There is no rope trick!")[1] with three bits of rope, which get handed out to audience members for a few moments and then reacquired. "I have long one!" "I have an average one." and for the short rope, "I drive a Corvette." but this guy had seen the show before, and was into it. Instead of the more usual sheepish hesitance, he belted out the line and the audience roared - and Pizpor was as shocked as I've ever seen him. We spoke a bit after that show and he was glowing with how amazingly well things gone. It seemed to more than make up for the morning show where weather had had a negative influence just when he would have passed the hat.

I think we all plan on returning to Ren in the Glen. It's a great way to spend an easygoing weekend in late July. The location works but isn't horribly far away from larger cities, the tickets are very inexpensive ($7 per person, with a discount for ordering ahead). This is smaller than Siouxland or Riverssance, but it has the right feel to it. It might be small, but it's not lacking. It has the "We're throwing a party..." (or having a picnic) "...and you're invited." feeling that good faires have.

[1] The afternoon before, in an off moment, Pizpor had just arrived and was relaxing on a then-unused stage. I got up and joined him, "Now I can say I've shared a stage with Pizpor!" He asked just what we were doing and I replied, "Here we are, both not doing the rope trick." He approved of this.

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