Gadzooks

When I was a little kid, say 9, I developed this strange fixation on the legend of King Arthur's court. I tried to pick my way through Le Morte d'Arthur and The Crystal Cave, tried to pry any knowledge of all things Holy Grail from my well-read, albeit amused, parents. I decided I had been Sir Gawain in a past life or something. I embraced my smidgen of Welsh blood; the king and me all the way, baby. Then, like all childhood fixations, this one flagged and gave way to the music of the Beatles. At least I kept my mind on the U.K.

About a year later, Dad took me to see John Boorman's Excalibur. (Forget the "R" rating. Dad was reckless that way if he thought his kids could learn something.) The obsession started all over again, this time with far more fascination placed on the bad guys Mordred and Morgan le Fay, though I had quite a winsome crush on Nicol Williamson's Merlin.

And with impeccable timing, my mom took my brothers and me to Scarborough Faire that year. I believe it was the first or second one ever in Waxahachie, and man, I was in heaven. To me, all those crazy, dirty folks running around in green tights and prattling in bad Elizabethan English was like a time tunnel back to my unconscious roots--OK, maybe not as far back as Camelot, but a lot closer to it than Texas in 1981.

We went that year, and the next, and I bought polished tiger-eye rocks and unicorn T-shirts and rode an elephant (!?) and watched the jousting and ate those giant, club-like turkey legs. Then, we stopped going, and I didn't care anymore. Junior high is no place for such esoteric hobbies. King Art was kicked off my mind's throne by Johnny Rotten and his Sex Pistols. Sure, I was a few years late again, but still sticking to British mythology, right?

But the fair lives on. For nearly 20 years, the biggest of the nation's Renaissance festivals hits Waxahachie and for 11 weeks takes over the hearts and minds of everyone trapped in that particular time warp, a contingent that has grown with the swell of New Age crystals and that rustic get-back-to-basics concern. Seems the further we get from barbarism, the more we romanticize it. Dunno 'bout you, but I've been pretty happy to take showers every day and cook soup in a microwave and never get head lice. Not to mention being spared the sight of public hangings.

Still, it's good, historic fun, and this year's festival promises all the stuff that made it famous: mead taverns, tournaments, countless booths of "artisans" and "psychics," medieval-tinged park rides, falconry demos, and 10 stages of continuous entertainment. Oh, yeah, and Scottish Highland dancing, stone tosses, a display of crowns (replicas, obviously), and lots of children's activities. If I remember correctly, this thing's huge--spread over acres and acres and buzzing with constant activity. A 30-minute drive south makes for a whole day of family distraction (no doubt a godsend for my mom at the time). I wanted to run away not with the circus, but with Scarborough. Guess Mr. Rotten came along just in time.

--Christina Rees

Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival takes place April 17-June 6, 10 a.m-7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays in Waxahachie (off Interstate 35 South, exit 399A). Admission is $16 for adults, $6 for children; children under 5 get in free. Free parking. Tickets are available at the gate and at Kroger Food Stores. For information, call (972) 938-

 
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