2004-05-12 / On The Town

Heart of the Forest Renaissance Faire a real ‘pip’

"All the world
By Dave Workman
Special to the Moorpark Acorn

By Dave Workman
Special to the Moorpark Acorn

Renaissance revelersRenaissance revelers

"All the world’s a stage

And all the men and women

merely players."

—William Shakespeare

In a place not far from here, for three consecutive weekends this spring, something magical is happening.

The Heart of the Forest Renaissance Faire north of Santa Barbara has opened a doorway to a splendid, festive world of long ago. Stepping inside, one is immediately surrounded by the sounds, aromas and pageantry of a 16th Century European village.

Nestled beneath a protective canopy of enormous oaks, the faire combines the festive merriment of an amusement park with the history and romance of a glorious time past. The rustle of fine fabrics, the aroma of shepherd’s pie, the clink of ale-filled pewter mugs—even the occasional shout and snarl of a jousting match—fill the air with a rich, invigorating sense of stepping back in time.

There are larger "Renfaires" in California, some even better known, but the appealing and intimate Heart of the Forest has an historic connection to our community. For 25 years, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire called Agoura its home. It began in 1963 as a small, intimate gathering of "artisans and anarchists" in North Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon and moved to Agoura’s Paramount Ranch three years later. The gathering gradually became a local tourist tradition and continued to expand, until a combination of growth and political intrigue fit for an Elizabethan mystery forced its new site—the Live Oak Camp in the hills north of Santa Barbara.

Phyllis Patterson, who started the faire with her husband, Ron, continues to mother the festivities. Her son, Kevin, and his wife, Leslie—the second generation of Pattersons—have taken over the production responsibilities. Their sons, Michael and Andrew, are the heirs-apparent to this idyllic seasonal tradition.

Phyllis was both English and history teacher back in ’63, and the faire concept was borne from her desire to infuse passion into her students and children’s theater group. "The Renaissance Faire is living history," Phyllis said, with more than a hint of pride. "And in a sense it was all begun by 80 ten-year-olds."

The Pattersons’ dream has expanded to include a similar faire in Marin County and another near Lake Tahoe. A "Dickens Christmas Faire," held every holiday season for more than 20 years in the Bay area, is another project held dear by Ms. Patterson. It is, said Phyllis, "a Victorian Christmas card come to life."

A visitor need only glance around the faire to feel the excitement—to sense the Patterson family’s passion. T-shirted, camera-toting tourists mingle with those dressed "in period"—16th Century peasants and craftsmen, soldiers and jesters, commoners and royalty. Colorful, and occasionally boisterous, merchants hawk wares of both modest and considerable expense. The winding, dusty lanes are lined by a seemingly endless procession of shoppes and bazaars—nearly all worth a glance.

Staged presentations for both children and adults run continually. There are several theatres with presentations that include traditional tales and mystical magic, jugglers and jesters, a Punch & Judy puppet show, and exhibitions of Celtic tunes, dance and exquisite craftsmanship. Beer, ales, mead and wine are available, as are traditional medieval foods. One has not truly feasted until one has wielded a giant turkey leg while strolling the grounds.

   ’Tis a browser’s paradise as well—a place of rare, one-of-a-kind items: carvings and ceramics, jewelry and stained glass, scents, soaps and oils, traditional garments, toys and games—even fabulously ornate reproductions of medieval weaponry. One can attend an art class or have a future told, hair braided or face painted.

   Children can ride the hand-cranked carousel in the same manner as children did 400 years ago. Twice a day, for the queen’s edification and entertainment, there occurs a jousting match.

Tired of the same-old, same-old? Of too much television and traffic and noise? The Renaissance Faire continues for two more weekends and will delight and enchant the entire family. It’s a remarkable event and one that should not be missed.

Where: Santa Barbara County’s Live Oak Camp. Take the 101 Freeway north to Highway 154 (State Street exit). Proceed about 15 miles north.

When: Weekends only, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 15, 16, 22, 23.

Ticket info: For details, call (805) 692-6722 or go to the Website at www.forestfaire.com

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