It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Oh, who are we kidding, the Medieval age looked to be pretty much the absolute worst of times in human history. There were crippling plagues, unsanitary living conditions, insane rulers, and everyday life was full of extreme hardship, except for maybe 1% of the population. Hmmm, wait, are we any different today? Well, we do have better teeth and smell nicer. So that’s a win. Oh, and instead of feudal land fights, we’ve got plenty of celebrity squad feuds to fuel us. Who knew Kim K and T-Swift would be the gladiators of today.
But we’re fascinated with the Middle Ages, aren’t we? An era teeming with chivalry, pageantry and horsery (kind of a word). A time where tournaments were considered THE most exciting events to get your ribaldry on.
Or maybe you just went to try and have a meet-cute with Sir Gallant on his noble steed. Maybe he throws a single rose your way, provided he’s not dying on the ground with a lance sticking out of his chest. Maybe he lifts you up on said noble steed and whisks you away to a happily ever after. At least that’s what all those scintillating romance novels I read as a teen told me about this era. Disney, too.
And now that HBO’s Game of Thrones is a global pop-culture sensation — dragons and magic, yo! — the ability to want to feel like you’re living in that era is quite palpable. Good thing for us Manitobans that the lovely people of the Immaculate Conception Church of Cooks Creek open their gates once every two years to put on an epic festival for us keeners.
Ignoring all the nasty bits about the Middle Ages, this festival shows off a few ways the olden days were pretty golden days…
C’mon, look at these scenes. This place actually exists in Manitoba. Isn’t it terrific?! The gigantic cathedral and those tall stone walls of the grotto provide the perfect backdrop for a tournament of pageantry and jousting. This may not be the largest festival in the province, but the over-the-top aestetic of the buildings gives it that feeling.
People watching is definitely a sport here. It’s awesome to see so many people get in the spirit of things and dress the part. And on a hot day to boot! I saw people in fur, velvet robes and full-length chainmail. Ooh, 20lbs of comfiness. How does one even choose their role/attire? Do they go, “Hmm, I wonder what I’ll dress as? I know, a Monk!” Or does someone just say, “Hey, we need monks and you’re it this year?” That was my deepest thought of the day. Also, I saw Gimli.
Even Chuck got in on the costumed action. Viking vibes.
If you only do one thing here, make sure it’s getting a good seat for the jousting matches. These are legit. The horses are beautiful, as all horses be, and the knights are not fooling around, they are wearing some intense armour. Rightfully so after seeing how big those damn lances are. And when they hit! BOOM! The sound is cracking. It was also nice to see a few armoured-up ladies bringing the beat down in this tourney.
Who knew Led Zepplin and AC/DC would be the score to this fest? Yes, there were ladies playing harp, yes, there were mandolin players walking around, but when that jousting started, it just made sense to hear some classic metal. It also made me think fondly of that cheesy Heath Ledger movie, A Knight’s Tale.
On the other side of the grotto wall, opposite the jousting, was where the dancing and singing was in full force. We caught some amazing Rusalka dancing, laughed at a puppet show, tried our hand at archery and got a kick out of how many people, young and old, were playing in the chess tournament. The two finalists of the day would be playing against each other using live people dressed as chess pieces. We left before seeing that, but it so reminded me of Harry Potter.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, there’s nothing like the hospitality of those who live in the country. We arrived to the fest and there was one long line of cars parked on the road. We were like “Woah, this is insane.” As we got closer to the grounds, we saw people directing cars into a makeshift field parking lot. I said, let’s just pay the parking fee, it will save us 20 minutes of walking. THERE WAS NO PARKING FEE. I don’t want to tell people their business, but next time, charge a little for prime parking spots. People will pay it and you’ll have more money to fix the place up. Did I mention Medieval Festival is a fundraiser to help keep those beautiful buildings up and running?
If we did have to park in that long line of cars, no worries, there was a shuttle you could take, which was made up of an old tractor towing a wagon that had either haystacks or school chairs to sit on. LOVE!
Well, that’s Medieval Fest in a nutshell. I hardly did it justice. I can’t wait to get there again in 2018. Remember, it’s only every two years, so you gotta put in on the 2018 must list.
* No witches were burned in the writing of this post.