You’ve never been camping until you’ve camped with a Renaissance fair clan.
A clan is a group of people from different walks of life who, over many years, have formed a unique bond with one another. Through the magic of the Renaissance fair, they have become a true family.
Recently, I had the extremely rare opportunity of being a blogger who was allowed to camp at the Sherwood Forest Faire with an established clan. I could have camped in the general camping area, but I wanted to get the “full experience.”
So it was suggested to me that I ask a clan if I could camp with them.
To understand why this was such a privilege, remember that clans are a family and relatively private to outsiders. Allowing a stranger to pitch a tent in your clan’s campground is akin to allowing a complete stranger into your home to sleep.
Out of respect for their privacy, the clan we stayed with will remain nameless, as will the members of the clan. No photos of the clan members in the campground will be shared. However, I will describe what we were able to experience, through the unwarranted trust that was extended to us.
In our little sedan, Brittany and I had packed everything but the kitchen sink. Because we had left Austin late in the afternoon on Friday, we were concerned that we wouldn’t make it to the campground before sundown. We arrived at the Sherwood Forest Faire campground at dusk, not knowing not what to expect.
After clearing the entry point, we drove into the campground which sits adjacent and just east of the Faire. The dirt road that winds through the campground was flanked on either side by clan property and their respective symbols, flags, pennants and shields.
We met with the camp marshall, Mike, who was making rounds on a golf cart. When we explained to him what we were there to do, he took us to a well-established clan and introduced us to their leadership. Graciously, but cautiously, the clan welcomed us into their space.
Darkness had already set in, which was slightly disconcerting due to my camping inexperience. But not to worry. Without delay, one of the clan members set up a light and shined it directly onto a flat space, large enough for our ridiculously huge tent.
We made our way over to the main area of the clan campground. Let me describe it. All over the campground were flags and symbols that identified the clan. A large and welcoming fire circle was found in the middle of the camp, where flickers of flame lit up the faces of the clan members seated there and the darkness of the surrounding woods. Music was playing and the aroma of a myriad of foods filled the air.
Though I’ve been camping before, there was something different about this place. I tried to take it all in, looking around and trying to identify what it was about this place that was so different from any other place I’d been before.
From the conversations that were taking place at the fire circle, I could tell that the clan members were all from different walks of life, and that it didn’t really matter. I could tell that they had no agenda, other than to enjoy their time. More importantly, I could tell that none of them would rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment. Still trying to figure out what it was that made this place unique, it suddenly hit me.
Everyone was genuinely smiling.
This really struck me. In a world in which there is not enough happiness, joy was clearly visible on the faces of everyone in the campground.
Almost immediately after I sat down by the smiling faces of the fire circle, I was offered food and drink. Members of the clan broke out drums and instruments and started playing together. Everyone was welcome to join in. Some clapped, some danced, others just swayed to the beat.
One magical night, Eric Todd, co-owner of the Sherwood Forest Faire, stopped by our campground with 40 or so of his closest friends. As we all gathered around the fire circle together, talented musicians lifted up their gifts for us to share. Eric turned to me and said, “This is why I do this. This experience right here makes everything worth it.” Surrounded by the woods with the night sky overhead and the sounds of these gifted musicians, I simply looked back at him and nodded in full agreement, thankful that he and co-owner George Appling have worked to make their dream a reality.
During our weekend camping at the Renaissance fair, there was something else that struck a chord with me about the clan. I noticed that within this group, actions spoke much louder than words and social status didn’t mean a thing. When I mentioned my observation, one clan member put it this way:
“We all have a mutual respect for one another, regardless of social status as the world would see it. I’d been camping with some of these people for years before I ever learned what they do for a living. The person sitting on your left may be a doctor and the person on your right may be out of work. In the clan, this doesn’t matter…we are all equal and we are all family.”
People in a clan aren’t identified by social status, but by the nature of their individual character. What a concept.
As I wrap up my post, I think about the character and personalities of the people that I met. In this clan specifically, it was plainly obvious that pretty much everyone had an “Alpha” type personality. They were all accustomed to being the leader in their respective worlds. Normally, this would never work in a group setting, but it works well here. I pondered how this could be for the whole weekend, and I think I finally figured it out.
Though I can’t speak for all the clans, I can definitely say this about the clan I camped with: In this clan, it is about selflessness and being genuinely yourself without any facades. It is about true friendships where your social status means nothing. In this clan, nothing but the true nature of your character determines your level of welcome.
Camping with this clan was an experience I will never forget and would love to repeat. But as they say, you don’t choose the clan; the clan chooses you.
There is still a lot I don’t know. I don’t know what it takes to become a clan member. I don’t know if I’m the kind of person that would be chosen by the clan. I don’t know if there are any strange initiation rituals for membership that involve blood, dancing virgins and fire-walking.
But I do know one thing, and that is that the clan I camped with was truly kind to me. The time I shared with them was extremely special and will always be fondly remembered.
Long live ________! (Ha, and you thought I was going to spill the beans.)
Timely post! While at Sherwood on Sunday, I was talking with a cast member about camping, and she mentioned that the best thing to do was to find a clan to join. She told me that if I chose to do this, i would need to just go around to the various camps and hang out with each one for a bit to see if there was an attraction either way. I can see why this would be a great thing to do. I had no idea that the were clans until I had this chat. It gives one a whole new perspective on what Sherwood is for the people who live it. Thanks for the insight, well done :@)
Fox, I can’t tell you enough how camping with a clan truly galvanized the experience of what is Ren Faire. Take the shot and introduce yourself to some clans. These are some of the best people I’ve ever met.
This is a well written article. We are glad you enjoyed yourselves and wish to thank you for the help you provided during your stay.
I especially like the parts where you described our clan with ” you don’t choose the clan; the clan chooses you.” and “nothing but the true nature of your character determines your level of welcome.”
Sadly we seem to have a number of folks who try to bully their way in which only seems to draw the ire of most members. Like most clans out there, if you fit in, we will ask you join us, if you don’t, then don’t get your feeling hurt, but try another clan. There are many and surely one of them will be right for most folks.
Thanks for the reply and I’m glad you liked the article. I honestly considered it not only a privilege but I truly had a great time as well.
I’m glad our first experience was with this clan though. I can’t imagine it getting much better.
Eric! We were welcomed into a clan at the end of last year and you are dead on
by what you said, “You don’t choose the clan; the clan chooses you.”
The fact that we all get together from all walks of life and for that moment in
time every weekend we are “family”. Our clan doesn’t cook small at
all and most of the time (we ran out Fri. night of shrimp & crawfish
etouffee) we have given food to other clans or even passer bys, & every morning we have coffee, 3 – 4 pots and it is made several times, if
you need coffee come on and get you some! Thank you for sharing your Sherwood
experience on your blog.
Your ogre toe sales lady!
Crimson Kristine! So glad you found our blog. Really the experience was something I’ll never forget. Not sure which clan you are with, but I’ll be sure to look for you next time I’m around the campgrounds. The Ogre Toe was fantastic and well basically everything else on the menu looked great too. I’ll be sure to stop by Bro Ha Ha again when I’m back in Sherwood. I have at least one more piece in mind for the Sherwood Forest Faire this year and that is to focus on some of the merchants. I might do an interview series on performers too… haven’t decided yet. I’m running out of weekends. The topics are plentiful. Great to meet you and hope to see you again soon.
Eric you are a real stand up guy. You are correct when you say actions speak louder than words. Your actions spoke volumes about your character. I know I thanked you Saturday morning for your help but I would like to say it again it really meant a lot. You jumped head first into what our fair families our all about. I loved the blog spot on, it takes me back to my first fair camping experience. I was awe struck with so much stimuli, so much going on everywhere it was hard to take it all in. I walked in to a clan and fell in love and here it is 15 glorious years later and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Castlesnake thank you for your hospitality and help as well! I’m glad you liked the post and I can completely see why after 15 years you’d still be just as hooked.
Beautifully well written! You hit the nail on the head!~ Thanks for taking time to see what we are all about!
Lovely Lisa, we are just scratching the surface of all that it is. But I appreciate your kind words. We are looking forward to our next trip out this season! Heck we didn’t even take the tent out of the trunk 🙂
And that’s just one renaissance faire. Other’s have other clans that are faire specific. We written article, I must say. 🙂
Thank you Ocho. We have much to learn yet, but we loved it and are looking forward to an invite for another faire soon.
Wait … dancing virgins? Nobody told me about that! I need to stop going to bed so early. LOL
Tis just a rumor.. tis just a rumor ~shifts eyes~
We enjoyed having you and your lovely bride! Your blog is well written, thank you! My Faire family and clan members are my closest, strongest bonded friendships. Any one of them would be there for me through most anything, as I would for them.
Please, come back anytime!
I completely believe that Louise… so looking forward to our next time together.
Valhalla, Celtics Rogues, Pirates of Posiedon, Brigadoons, Free Spirits, Meow Meow Buccaneers, Clan Chaos, with the severe lack of details, and specifics, regarding the clan camp it could have been anyone of these. Yours, and there, secret is very much save. A well written arictle, and methinks a fine gent who wrote it. Nuff said. HAROO!!!!!!
Thanks John. Actually I got to meet several of the clans you mentioned.. and they are all distinct in their own right and yet have the common love for the faire. I respect the privacy of the members and I was just glad to be welcomed.
This is a very well written piece. I just recently joined a clan and I am having a blast! My son also comes with me to the fair and joined the same clan. It has made going to the fair extra special.
If it is ok to ask, how did you “join” the clan? Was I right about the blood, dancing virgins and fire-walking? Or was there a simpler process? I’m sure it is different for ever clan, but I’m curious as to your experience Fnefarm.
Thankyou for putting into words what all of us clan members have known silently for years! Whether we are originating members, seasoned over 23 years together now, or newly welcomed members… Everyone one of us have been touched by your elegantly told experience! And i feel free to speak for us all when I write “Hope you enjoyed your stay, come back and see us real soon!”
Bobbijo1 you won’t have to ask twice. We’ll definitely be back to say hello. I’m glad you liked the post. Please follow the Austinot on Facebook too if you haven’t already. We’d love to stay connected and hope you enjoy the rest of the blog as well. – Eric
I’ve only really camped once at faire most of the other times I drove in from home with my family or stayed in a hotel I do have to say the one night I camped it was amazing to say the least it wasn’t near as exciting as your experience as no one really knew I was there I was a special guest to one person who kind of smuggled me in it was still a great experience and would so do it again
Samira, I seriously could camp there every weekend. The people there were so kind and selfless. I could only suggest that you walk around the camps and introduce yourself to some of the clans. They are a great group of folks and most of them I’ve found were very welcoming. There was really no experience like it.
Any chance of getting a digital copy of the photo of the children with the flag? They are my grandchildren and that is a wonderful photo that I’d like to make a print of!
I actually just sent the photo to the mom of the little ones. So she should have it for you. 🙂 All the best.. glad I was able to capture that moment in time.
I think everyone should visit one of these fairs. I have been going to them for years and finally joined up with some dancers. Then ventured out to form another group and teaching them how to venture back into time. I only go to my local fair for now, but eventually I would like to visit more. Thanks for writing this so many get an idea of what they are like.
Thank you for the kind comments Raniya, we really enjoyed the faire, and the camping gave it a whole new perspective. Which faire is your local faire?
Darn, I missed the Sherwood Forest Faire this year! Added it to the calendar for next year.
Brian, you really will want to check this out. If you use the Search area at the top of the blog and type in Sherwood you’ll see all kinds of content that we’ve done on this awesome faire.
I hope you got to venture back to Sherwood this year as well!
@facebook-100003138484653:disqus, we finally made it back on Saturday for closing weekend! So wonderful to see old friends and see all the expansion at the Faire!