by Lynn Davis
Partygoers enjoyed a rare opportunity to step back in time Friday evening, Sept. 19, to the 15th century, as they gathered around the gardens at Azalea Park for the first Renaissance Fair, hosted by Haley Farr of Upper Crust Designs.
Costumed in period attire, patrons young and old welcomed the chance to break bread together, as they relaxed listening to Celtic music, and watching live Shakespeare performances.
Vendors were on hand selling garden-fresh herbs, bakery goods, and a variety of hand-made items.
Rich Goolsby attended the event with his wife, Penny. The couple has enjoyed several other Renaissance festivals in the past, and were delighted one was introduced to Brookings.
"It's great, and the costumes are so interesting," Rich Goolsby said. "It's a beautiful afternoon, and everybody should be outside enjoying what we have left of this weather."
Musical duo "Around the Hearth" treated the audience to a live concert of Celtic sounds. George Leverett on harp, together with his guitar-strumming wife, Anwyn, served as an integral part of the celebration, filling the air with Renaissance ambiance.
Once in a while they threw in a comedic, yet not-so-authentic tune, like the "Birthday Song," which had the crowd bursting the stitches of their garb with laughter. The lyrics were a bit non-traditional, and they didn't necessarily leave the honoree feeling happy he just turned another year older.
Local actor Tony Kent enjoyed the opportunity to perform at the festival. The audience was enthralled with his execution of an scene from Shakespeare's "Henry V."
Actors Michael S. Fox, Victoria Weller and Jennyfer Brown of FoxWell Productions made everyone laugh as they performed interpretations of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" as a gruesome, albeit creative, cooking lesson and a rap rendition of "Othello." The trio finished up with a football game in which they tossed a king's crown back and forth, tackling each other as they illustrated the basic themes of the Bard's other works. The play from which the skits were taken, "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" just closed a successful run in a Chetco Pelican Players production.
Brookings philanthropists Elmo and Lorraine Williams chuckled along with the rest of the audience at the entertainers' antics. Williams' efforts have been instrumental in the beautification of Azalea Park.
"I'm delighted! I'm so glad to see people out here enjoying themselves," he said.
Lorraine Larsen spent time meandering through vendor offerings, picking up a few interesting items along the way. "It's very nice, she said. "The fair is very colorful, and just very original."
Paula Smith agreed, adding, "In this town there are not too many cultural activities, so I support them whenever I can.
"It's for everyone. There's a nice ratio of men, women and children. A great event for the whole family."
Dr. Kelly Lowther, along with husband Peter and son Brynmor, was also pleased to see an event like this organized in Brookings.
"The music is good," Dr. Lowther said. "We used to go to Renaissance festivals in Texas. We've been wanting to go to one since we moved here three years ago."
Tina Smith stood watching the musicians as her 2 1/2 year old daughter, Makiah, fed her pieces of bread she picked up from the Upper Crust Design refreshment table. Tina came dressed in a Renaissance dress she purchased in Medford a few years ago, but rarely had the chance to wear.
Enjoying the opportunity to don the outfit, she said, "I'm hoping Brookings has a lot more activities like this. Maybe, if it goes over well enough, Upper Crust might do it again next year."
It seems locals have been craving the type of activities Upper Crust Designs has been providing. Attendance was so good for this first time event 175 fairgoers, it has solidified Farr's commitment to provide themed, community-focused entertainment.
According to Farr, the event went over so well, in fact, plans are already under way to make it even more enjoyable next year.
"It was nice to see that all of the work that was put into the fair was appreciated," Farr said. "I'm really, really happy with the outcome. I just wish it could've been longer."
She believes two hours on a Friday evening isn't quite enough time for the function, so next year it will be planned as a full day event on a weekend in early September.
"Next year it will be bigger and better!" she said. She is planning for more vendors, catering, and a medieval jousting and fighting demonstration.
In addition to offering floral and interior design services, her business also specializes in coordinating and accessorizing special events.
Although Farr said she is happy to handle the details of her clients' get-togethers, about nine months ago, she decided she would also like to plan events of her own. Since then, she has succeeded in bringing several themed activities to the community, such as last spring's Masquerade Ball, and the recent Caf et Chocolat.
"I love to do events and parties," Farr said. "I plan to have one each month, and repeat the calendar of events every year. Every month people will have something to look forward to."
Her next activity, "Halloween Bash," takes place Oct. 24, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the Chetco Grange Hall and is intended to be for adults only. On Nov. 6, Farr is helping to coordinate the "Harvest Gala," a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser hosted by Bistro Gardens in Crescent City.
December activities are also planned, contact Upper Crust Designs at (541) 412-7906 for details, or to present an idea for a themed event.