Ruminations, etc..

Musings, rantings, and pie.

Ren Faire Memories: Showering You with Affection

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(For the past two decades of my life, I’ve participated, with varying levels of commitment, at both the Arizona and Southern/Northern California Renaissance Faires.  I’m going to start chronicling some of the stories here.  It’ll be sort of like Get in the Van, but lamer. Please note, the names have been changed to protect all parties.)

This is a slight deviation from my last two Ren Faire Memories posts.  Here I’ll be discussing a facet of life as a ren faire performer and not a specific event.   The topic for this installment are the showers participants have to use out at the faires.


Here’s the thing about the showers at the Ren Faire: after a day working in the hot sun, you need a good shower.  Men can sometimes get away with going a day or so without one, but that varies from person to person, and what costume that man is wearing.   Men’s costumes, generally, are lighter and less restrictive.  Especially men’s peasant costumes; those usually consist of a shirt, a vest thing, short pants and stockings.  If those items are made out of light natural fibers, you can stay cool throughout the day, and you’ll be less disgusting when the day’s over.  So, depending on how “outdoorsy” you are, it may not matter at all. However, as you get up towards the top of the food chain, the costumes get heavier and more restrictive.  That causes much more sweat and grime to accumulate.

Women’s costumes have the same problem as the royal costumes.  Women’s costumes are so layered and restrictive even if they’re made out of natural fibers, they still cause sweat and misery. The run of the mill women’s ren faire costume consists of a tight bodice (a corset like thing) and multiple long skirts.  And that’s just the basic costume.  Like with the men, it gets worse as you go towards the upper classes.   The women’s royal costumes are even more restrictive and painful to wear.  Seriously, you have never seen relief until you’ve seen the faces of some of these ladies when they get to loosen their bodices.  Probably the only thing that’s comparable to that feeling is being told that the biopsy was negative and the tumor is benign.

Anyway, back to the showers. Each faire has its own management, so the facilities are unique to each faire.

For instance, at that Southern California fair when I would attend there (between the years 1998-1999) they used to bring out shower trailers. These were purpose built trailers with three shower stalls in them, and  they weren’t bad. Yes, pools of water would form on the floor, grass and dirt would be smeared on the walls, and occasionally single-sex showers would turn co-ed in the middle of the afternoon, but overall they weren’t bad.  You didn’t feel completely violated going into them.


The best shower facilities at any faire I’ve ever worked had to be at the Santa Barbara Ren Faire in 2000.  That was the first year that faire was open and it was a small affair.  The site itself was on a live oak camp and already had some good infrastructure there.

The showers were made out of concrete and wood.  The stalls themselves were built out of wooden slats that sat high above the drains so water never pooled at your feet. There were nice plastic shower curtains, so you never had to shower in front of everyone else.  Which is cool cause I don’t want to be sitting on a bench while some dude’s ass is right there in front of me.  And I’m sure they feel the same about my rear as well.  So it was a win-win.

But, as good as having clean stalls, plentiful hot water, and shower curtains was, that wasn’t the best part. The best part was there wasn’t a ceiling.  Seriously, I know that sounds weird, but it was great. It was fantastic taking a nice warm shower in a clean stall underneath a beautiful deep blue sky with a light cool breeze going over me.  Normally at a faire event the facilities are so nasty it’s a get in, get out scenario.  At this faire I took two showers a day. It was wonderful.

The current fair at the Northern California faire doesn’t currently have any shower facilities. That, my friends, gets nasty.

But what’s worse than no shower facilities are the old shower facilities at the Arizona Ren Faire. I started working there in 1990, the second year the fair was open. I have a friend that is still doing fair out there and he says the showers are in the same building as when I worked out there. I don’t think they’ve gotten better with age.


It's not this bad, but it aint much better.

The shower facilities in Arizona are in one building with a side dedicated to each sex, i.e., men on one side, women on the other. Originally, there were four stalls made out of cheap plastic. My second year there, they took out the fourth stall and put in a flush toilet that was always clogged. The bottoms of the plastic stalls started breaking, so pools of stagnant water would form in large cracks by your feet. Stagnant water that drained off the bodies of people with questionable hygiene.

The shower curtains were stolen/trashed so water was flying everywhere and pooled on the shower house floor. The shower house floor that had no drain in it and a constantly clogged flush toilet. That water got ankle deep some days.  Rumors of staph infection were rampant, but I don’t know how true they were.  I know I never got it, that’s for sure.

Now, think about it. You work at the fair, it gets into the 90s/100s some days out there (it also gets down to the 40s and 50s and rainy, but that’s another issue), you’re hot, you’re tired, and all you want it is a shower. You trudge to this lean-to and open the door. You get hit in the face with smelly steam, stinky, overweight bodies hanging around, a clogged overflowing toilet and three inches of stagnant water, which may or may not be swimming with staph infection. You’re standing there, deciding whether or not risk possible infection and loss of limb, when some fat old bear screams at you to close the door. So I ask you, what would you do? Me, I just closed the door and decided to deal with my unique stink. But that’s just me: I’m a bold young man with a Devil May Care attitude! (Read: I just stank a lot).

For next time:

I’m still trying to decide which piece I’m going to work on next for this series.  It’s down to two: 1) It Aint So Good to be the King, or 2) One Day Soon I’m Going to Tell the Moon about the Farting Game.  I’m not sure which one to go with.  Suggestions are always welcome in the comments.


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