Talking to Strangers: Maryland Renaissance Festival

Nerve asks deeply personal questions to rogues and wenches we just met. Verily.

By Elissa Gross

Nicki, 31

What is your experience with the Ren Festival?
I've been getting the weekend pass for every weekend for the past three years. I always came a couple times a year and I worked here when I was younger and then ended up buying the season pass and just enjoying it. And I belly dance. I actually got inspired by watching dancers from the fair, and then I started taking lessons.

So, is there a dating/sex scene at the Ren Festival?
There is! It's actually really crazy. When I was sixteen, I worked here, and there was this dating game among the people working here. They used the rose vendors to pass dirty messages to random people. They would tie notes to the roses and pass them off that way. There's a lot that goes off at the Ren Festival, dating-wise. You're talking about a place that wants to market itself as family-friendly, but they also sell whips and paddles, so...

I've noticed that. Could you tell me about any hookups you've had at the Ren Festival?
You have places like the White Heart, which is the pub behind us, which is a little more tame. But if you go to the Dragon, you'll see things like girls making out — it's just a little more of a wilder place. Everything goes. I've had my share — kisses between friends, kisses between girlfriends. It happens.

Are the costumes ever involved? Is there a costume role-playing lifestyle?
I think there may be. I actually noticed this year that the vendor who usually sells the bondage stuff — one of the leather vendors — is not here anymore. I think they're trying to downplay that aspect — this is a family-friendly event, but there's definitely a lot of people who come here who are involved in BDSM or another alternative lifestyle. But really anyone is accepted here. That's the beauty of the festival. It's the most open place to be.

I recently learned about wenches and rogues. What are you looking for in your own wench or rogue?
Generally, the wenches are a group of women here who really play up their whole role. I've never really done the whole wench thing, but as far as guys — I don't know, I'm a pirate. So I guess I tend to go for other pirates.

Are any long-lasting relationships formed here?
Actually, I've been to three Renny weddings. I have some friends who come every weekend and they're getting married here soon. There are definitely some strong lifetime relationships. For instance — we call them "Mum" and "Da" — they work at Half Moon, he's the manager there, and they've been married many many years and their children come here. So there are some very strong long-term relationships that start here.

NEXT: "I'd actually just like to find someone. Seriously, stop playing around, find somebody."

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