The Renaissance Returns to Whitman

Nidhi Jaltare, Staff Reporter

Jousting, people in costume and vendors selling their colorful wares became a normal sight this past Saturday, April 21. Spanning the day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the 49th Annual Renaissance Faire brought the European Renaissance Period to Whitman’s campus. There were entertaining things to do for adults and children alike, with highlights including face-painting and getting knighted by a queen. Kids could be seen all over the Memorial Building lawn with spider webs and dragons painted on their faces.

The events of the day included fencing, boffing, pyromancy and dancing, as well as various skits put on by the Renaissance Faire club. Among the most attractive events was unicycle jousting, in which competitors challenged one another while balancing on unicycles, much to the amusement of the crowd. Various musicians including the Whitman Minstrels, My Sister Linoleum along with Skweez the Weezle, Sultana’s dancers, Short Shakespeare and Mossyback Morris Men provided music and dance as entertainment while people engaged in activities and shopped from the local vendors.

The event was put on by Whitman’s Renaissance Faire club with some contributions from Whitman alumni. Many of the elaborate costumes were provided by two Whitman alumni in Walla Walla who graduated 15 years ago but still hold enthusiasm for the Renaissance Faire. Junior Lizzi Wong, a member of the club, voiced her enthusiasm for the costumes.

“My favorite part of Faire is seeing everyone getting dressed up and the community getting involved,” Wong said. “This year there were two guys dressed up in full on armor with halberds and helmets at the faire and it was so cool to see!”

Senior Grace Pyles, one of the organizers of the event, described some of the traditions of this annual event.

“We have a lot of traditions,” Pyles said. “Ours is sort of unique because it is only one day, but people still come to it. Some traditions we have is that we always get the club members together to put on a skit, and there’s always two professors that volunteer to be the king and the queen … One good tradition is the unicycle jousting that happens at noon – because we can’t have real horses – so unicycle jousting is almost as fun. We get lots of entertainment from everywhere. A newer tradition that we have is to have the Whitman Minstrels play. We used to have the Madrigals sing acapella music, but we had instrumentals this time.”

A lot of effort went into making this a successful event. Vendors had to be invited, people took time to dress up in period-appropriate garb and Memorial lawn had to be transformed completely within a single day.

Junior Georgia Lyon, the budgeting manager for the Renaissance Faire, spoke about the work that went into organizing the event.

“We all met at six to officially set up,” Lyon said. “We have to move a lot of stuff which is stored at the garage at the Tek down to Mem and it takes a few hours. Tearing down also takes a few hours, so it can be a long day. I think it’s totally worth it though.”

The Renaissance Faire serves as a link between Whitman and rest of the Eastern Washington community, aiming to bring the Walla Walla community together with Whitman. As an annual event, it has been established as an important one.

“I want to carry on the tradition,” Pyles said. “Whitman’s Renaissance Faire is going to be 50 years old next year … It’s really important to me to keep up this tradition that people in town and Whitman really love, and just to bring the town and community together … I think Renaissance Faire is one that not only brings all of Walla Walla together, but also sometimes people from as far as Spokane, or as far as Oregon. It’s also a great way to reconnect with the alumni.”

The people in the club have also put a lot of effort into making sure it is an inclusive event.

“It is one of the most inclusive experiences you can have,” Lyon said. “People from all walks of life have a fun time. When we were writing our skits, the person who wrote them made sure that all the names used were gender neutral and that anyone could use them.”

Lyon spoke similarly about the aim of the Renaissance Faire in creating a space where people can be themselves.

“I think the motive of the Ren Faire is to create a place where a lot of people from a lot of different areas who are a little weird, creative and kinda dorky and come together and celebrate themselves who they are, and also celebrate together as a community,” Lyon said. “One thing that drew me to the Ren Faire was everyone there is so open about how quirky they are, but everyone is talented in different ways, and I just think it’s almost like a liberal arts club that comes together with all our talents and throws an event that has a little bit for everyone.”