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Festival of the past welcome in our future

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002


Discussions about whether the Bay Area Renaissance Festival will come to Pasco County from Largo take my mind to some interesting (to me, anyway) places.

Going back to the past has never been a favorite fantasy of mine.

I have friends who are deeply engrossed in the reenactment movement, not always with a lot of careful attention to the history of the incidents they reenact.

And, before anyone else makes the statement, yes, it does seem weird for a guy with shoulder-length hair, a pierced ear, a Grateful Dead tattoo and a closet full of tie-dyed T-shirts to question other people's chronological fixations.

But the truth is, you can take almost any period in history and find more things about today that are better than or worse than they were then.

I, for one, will never be nostalgic or historically fascinated with any era that did not have foam rubber, ice cubes or air conditioning.

And, Deadhead though I am, I am forced to note that the 1960s and '70s might have offered a drug culture to help us rot our minds, but the real mind-rotters, like video games more sophisticated than Pong, as well as MTV and trash talk radio, didn't come along until later.

And there is nothing wrong with picking some of the better points out of a time period -- medieval and Civil War-era chivalry, ancient Roman architecture and Greek thought, for instance -- and reliving that glory.

But I always feel the need to add leavening to the sweet historical loaves some of these buffs would bake.

The Renaissance was a wonderful time, a period of enlightenment after the dark ages.

Philosophy and the arts grew by leaps and bounds, sane people stopped advocating the torture and murder of those with different religious beliefs -- well, almost -- and literacy, from that point until the advent of country-western music, was in its heyday.

But it was also a time when people rarely bathed because they feared water would cause illness.

Most people had lice. Deodorant had not yet been invented (It would be great if we could get a whiff of one of those hoop-skirted, white-wigged ballroom scenes) and you were lucky if you lived to be 40.

There was no birth control, no anesthesia for surgery or dentistry, and torture as a means of extracting information from alleged criminals wasn't entirely frowned upon, even before the invention of the term "homeland security."

If all this sounds like I am putting down the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, I assure you that I am not.

I think the festival would be a perfect event for the tragically underused facilities at The Concourse.

For the uninitiated, Renaissance festivals, I have been told, are a lot like Shakespearian festivals with less poetry and more beer.

I am reasonably sure that beer service and the obvious acronym for the Bay Area Renaissance Festival are only coincidental.

The events usually feature jousting competitions and other combat with simulated period weapons and a good deal of pageantry.

One of my less historically oriented young colleagues says the main reason to patronize them is the whole roasted turkey-legs that are usually sold there.

I think we need more pageants and festivals in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties where, until not too many years ago, the hot ticket was a chicken-plucking festival, and I thoroughly support any effort to bring the Largo group up here and make them welcome.

I'm not sure all media folks up here will be as enthusiastic as I am, even those who have demonstrated that they have some of the best 15th-century minds in the business.

Please, Lords and Ladies, don't take offense. Most of us are just too lazy to learn how to spell "renaissance," but you may have something going with that BARF thing.

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