Growing up at the Renaissance Faire

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Hebron - posted Mon., Oct. 3, 2011
Lars Johnson, a.k.a. 'Trigve,' at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. Photo by Annie Gentile.
Lars Johnson, a.k.a. 'Trigve,' at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. Photo by Annie Gentile.

Most days, Lars Johnson is an ordinary 17-year-old kid from Manchester, but for the last four years, during four weekends in September and October, Lars transforms into his alter ego, the young orphan “Trigve.”

Found at a food booth at the 13th Annual Connecticut Renaissance Faire, he explained in his perfected Romany accent - without breaking character - how he was picked up on the side of the road and taken in by a Romany-Gypsy couple who promptly put him to work hawking their special brews and decadent desserts. It’s a fantastic story, and “Trigve” shared it with unflinching certainty.

For those who have never visited the Renaissance Faire at the Hebron Lions Club Fairground, Lars’ story might seem confusing. However, unlike harvest fairs where the food vendors and other merchants act more as an accessory to the main entertainment, everyone at the Renaissance Faire gets into the medieval act.

As his mother Sirkka - whose employs her own alter ego, “Magda” - explained it, for several years their family has enjoyed attending Renaissance fairs. Her brother, Lars’ Uncle Mark, used to run a fried turkey leg booth, and she and her husband helped him out. Later, they opened their own food booth.

“It provided a home base for the kids,” said Sirkka. “There was a strong sense of community and I felt comfortable with the kids being able to visit the Faire all day. It’s a great family event and it’s really fun for the kids.”

Sirkka explained that there are two kinds of people that work the fairs - the “Rennies,” who do it full time, traveling from fair to fair, and then others like hers that have full-time jobs and who work at the Faire once a year for the nine days.

Lars said his fondest memories during those early years were always wandering around the Faire wanting to buy things, and running back to his parents to ask them if they could give him $5 or $10 for something he wanted.

When he turned 13, Lars began helping out in his uncle’s booth.

“That’s when I really started working on my Renaissance outfit,” said Lars. “I went through this whole weapons phase. I had a short sword, a dagger, even a mace with a little handle. I got a little eccentric for a while about my costume.”

“Working for my Uncle Mark was definitely an interesting experience as a child,” added Lars. “It was so much fun to dress up, and talk in a different way.”

Lars said he loved shouting at people and hawking what they had to sell and making up elaborate stories about how their food was prepared in huge cauldrons.

“I was so into it, I got so when I was in school, I would sometimes slip into my Renaissance accent and I couldn’t slip back out of it for the whole day,” he said.

Later, when they started their own food booth, the family created their gypsy story, explaining that they stopped temporarily in this “shire” while they were having a wagon wheel repaired and then they would be on their way. That’s when they invented the orphan story for “Trigve.” Sirkka recalled with a laugh one year when they had a health inspector visiting their booth truly shocked and convinced of its authenticity.

For Lars, that exemplified the fun of being a character in the Faire. “I’ve just never considered this work. It’s always been just fun for me,” he said.

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