NORMAN — At Reaves Park, banners emblazoned with a crest of two rampant unicorns above a crown signaled the start of the 38th annual Medieval Fair on Friday.
The festival, which continues daily through Sunday, kicked off with a parade fit for a king — literally. The procession included men-at-arms, falconers, a jester, ladies-in-waiting and, of course, a lord and lady.
With cries of “Long live the king!”, the parade wound its way through pavilions selling swords, snacks and fashionably archaic attire, coming to rest at the Royal Court near the center of the park. There, King Edward III of England declared the fair officially open.
Most of the year, Edward III goes by the name Cody Clark and works at the University of Oklahoma’s Housing and Food Department. Clark has been a part of the fair since its creation in 1977. He and his court have been rehearsing their roles since September. It might seem like a lot of effort for a three-day event, but for Clark and his court, the work is its own reward.
“We think of ourselves as the ambassadors for the fair,” Clark said. “The best part is seeing the smiles and the looks of wonderment on the children’s faces when we knight them or make them princesses or whatever title they choose. That makes everything we do worth it.”
Different organizations collaborate to bring the Middle Ages back during the fair. Some, like the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Arthurian Order of Avalon, bring actors who, like Clark, take on a historical persona to entertain and educate. Others specialize in medieval science, art or weaponry.
Almost perfect replica
Chuck Waite, of Tulsa, is a member of the Saltfork Craftsmen Artist-Blacksmith Association. His forge, complete with bellows and anvil, is an almost prefect replica of what would have been used to make weapons 700 years ago.
Fairgoers can watch Waite and other blacksmiths work, and buy the finished products they watch being molded out of formless metal.
Originally a small one-day event held on the university’s South Oval, the Medieval Fair evolved into a festival hosting more than 200 craftsmen, 40 food vendors and eight different stages or entertainment areas where fairgoers can watch jousting, minstrel shows, or hear lectures by OU’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
The fair evokes not only the history of 14th Century England but also draws on popularized lore from the time period. Arthur and Guinevere are present among the court royalty, and mermaids with shimmering tails pose for pictures atop a wooden “ship.” Among the crowds gathered at the fair, elves and fairies mingle with swordsmen, wizards and people in jeans and T-shirts.
At 3 years old, River Fuson might be one of the youngest people in costume. The tiny red-and-gold knight attended the fair Friday with his parents, Barbara and Bill Fuson, of Norman.
“River’s favorite part so far has been the llama ride,” said Barbara Fuson. “We’re planning on seeing the storyteller next.”
The Fusons have been attending the Medieval Fair for years, and say it makes a great family outing. The fair offers something for everyone, whether one is a history buff or a fantasy fan — or simply if someone enjoys the fair's famous dragon-sized turkey legs.
The best part is seeing the smiles and the looks of wonderment on the children’s faces when we knight them or make them princesses or whatever title they choose. That makes everything we do worth it.”