Keeping it real at the Renaissance Faire

Performers like the fantasy, some claim fondness for the reality too
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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1485 or 2008? E-mail or chain mail? Doublets or toilets? Black plague or Jack Black? The hundred or so becostumed players peopling the woods at North Auburn’s Regional Park this weekend for the Cain’s Crossing Renaissance Faire have one foot dangling in the 15th century while keeping a toehold in the 21st, thank you very much. They’ve created their own two-day version of Brigadoon, minus the bagpipes but heavy on the Elizabethan brocade. Ask a well-dressed, courtly speaking gent like Sacramento’s Clint Harless whether he’d actually want to live back then and he’ll politely point you back toward your shiny new time machine. “I couldn’t imagine a world without Internet and TV,” he said Saturday. “And the reality is, if you lived in those past times, you be dead by now.” The North Auburn Renaissance experience takes away the open sewers and deadly diseases of days gone by while retaining the less-threatening fairy-tale princesses and the swashbuckling doers of derring. Justin LeCavalier of Lompoc said he’s found his niche, making chain mail and selling it at the 20 period fairs he participates in every year. Would he take the time-travel trip back to the 1600s? “I would be back in a heartbeat, even with all the negatives,” LeCavalier said. “Let me put it this way; I worked with computers for 7½ years, quit and do this now. I’ve always believed I live in the wrong century.” During fairs like the one in Auburn, LeCavalier’s world gets pushed tenderly back into the past. He strolled the once and future disc golf course exchanging pleasantries with buxom maidens and stockinged noblemen. The atmosphere in the temporary kingdom is like a big family, he said. On Friday night, someone hit a water pipe while setting up a tent. “Even before the water was shut off, the tent was moved and set up at a different location,” LeCavalier said. “The four in the guild that had been setting up were joined by probably 40 helping with the move.” Accommodations are made for the modern world — which intrudes when a plane flies overhead from the nearby Auburn Airport or one of the players has to take a phone call. LeCavalier discreetly pulls his cell phone out of an ornately decorated leather pouch to show that he can have the best of both worlds — at least on weekends when a fair is taking place. Resplendent as Queen Elizabeth I, Rocklin’s Sandy Cook said that she has decreed that no one in her group wear sunglasses or have their cell phones on anything but vibrate mode. And no smoking is allowed unless it’s via a long clay pipe fashionable during a time when Walter Raleigh’s discovery was considered healthy because it was thought to clear the lungs. Drinking adult beverages was also part of the daily life during a time when water quality was questionable. There were plenty of goblets being carried to keep that tradition alive on Saturday. Harless said that what translates well into modern times for many of the people taking part are “beer, breasts, turkey legs and jousts.” “People like to disappear into the fantasy world,” he said. Cook said she prefers the fantasy to the reality and would turn down a one-way ticket to the 16th Century world. “A woman’s lot was not easy,” Cook said. “Although as a queen, I didn’t have much of a problem.” Down the shaded dirt path on what is normally the vicinity of the eighth disc golf hole sat the first aid tent, Yuba City’s Ray Ross was using what looked suspiciously like a bottle of modern-day Murine — but what he described as a saline solution — to ease the pain of wounded Marissa Hammer. The 3-year-old Auburn girl had hurt her eye playing in straw. Ross had just received an order for a hand-carved cane from one of the more senior Renaissance Fair participants and had earlier worked with a man who had been injured when ash drifted into his eye. People think they’re tough but can’t hold a hand-dipped, beeswax candle to their ancestors, he noted. “Back then, it was leeches, saws and rum,” he said. “You’d be awake as you got a leg chopped off.” Ross said those leg-chopping days would be just about perfect for him. He’s worked as a paramedic and in the alternative medicine realm. “Life was simpler,” he said. “It was hard but everyone respected each other. If feel I was born a little too late.” The fair, a fundraiser for the Auburn Education Foundation, continues today. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or comment online at -------- Cain’s Crossing Renaissance Faire When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today Where: Auburn Regional Park, 3880 Richardson Drive, North Auburn Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors Why: To benefit the Auburn Education Foundation and the students of Auburn Directions: Interstate 80 to Highway 49 to Dry Creek Road to 3880 Richardson Drive Call: (530) 885-8461 ext. 20