Owl at Medieval Fair in Norman. 2015
In Oklahoma, the winter can be cold and boring. That’s why so many of us look forward to spring and all the activities it brings. Not long after spring break in March the festivals and fairs begin. One of the best has been held in Norman at the beginning of April for the past 40 years- the Medieval Fair.
This event was started in 1977 by the English department at the University of Oklahoma. It was just a one day event held on the South Oval in celebration of the birth of William Shakespeare. After a few years the popularity of the fair forced it to be moved to the Duck Pond and expanded to two days. This is how I first remember the fair- I was 15 and as part of my high school English assignment we had to go experience the fair. There were demonstrations on how to use ancient weapons, exhibitions on medieval clothing, and a mermaid perched near the stone bridge over the pond. The crowds were still small but that would change in just a few years. As a student at OU, I went again in the early 1990’s. There were more people, most dressed in costume, and vendors selling clothing and fake weapons. I didn’t go back until 1999 when I tried to take my husband for his first visit, but the crowds were so big you could hardly even see the pond. We drove by slowly on Lindsay Street and left.
The University and the city of Norman obviously noticed this as well because in 2003, it was moved about a mile south to Reaves Park. You would think being in a bigger park would help spread the crowds out but I think it just invited more to attend. In 2007 I finally took my husband with Mae now in tow for their first trip, now we try to go every other year. This year just happened to have a nice Saturday, so we went.
We got there nice and early to get a good parking spot at the Lloyd Noble Center. The fair itself is free, but the University charges five dollars to park across the street from Reaves Park. Once you enter the fair, you can find almost anything you want as long as it’s from the middle ages. There is an archery stand set up so you can pretend to be Robin Hood, fortune tellers more than happy to tell you what you want to hear about your future, and lots of vendors selling everything from costumes and jewelry to leather and metal goods. Of course there is also a huge selection of food vendors and that’s where we started. Yeah, they have the corn dogs, turkey legs, and funnel cake but we wanted something else so we stopped at Helmut’s Strudel. Mae had an apple strudel while me and my husband shared a Bavarian cheesecake strudel along with a spinach and cheese puff pastry. It was a good “breakfast” to start with, then we just wandered around, enjoying the atmosphere. Since Mae is getting more interested in clothing, she had to stop and look at the dresses and corsets for sale. My husband took a liking to some of the mock medieval weapons, he might need some since Mae is starting to attract male suitors. But for all the stuff being sold, there are still plenty of reenactments of life in the middle ages. We watched “knights” doing battle, belly dancers, Irish step dancers, minstrels, and a real jousting exhibition. The cool part of this fair is that even with the big crowds, the majority are dressed up in costume. Just about everywhere you look you can find knights, lords and ladies of the court. Even though there is no pond, you can find mermaids sitting in a ship.
Overall the Medieval Fair in Norman is a lot of fun for everyone. So set aside the first weekend in April so you can venture back in time for just a while.