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.)