Friday, October 9, 2009

The Medieval Festival at Fort Tyron Park

Last Sunday afternoon, Kevin and I took the A Train all the way uptown to 190th St to Fort Tyron Park. Fort Tryon Park is a public park located in the Washington Heights section of the NYC borough of Manhattan. It is situated on a 67 acre ridge, with an awesome view of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, the New Jersey Palisades and the Harlem River. It is is also site of The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art and culture. It was the perfect setting for the 2009 Medieval Festival that we were there to check out.

The Medieval Festival at Fort Tyron is an annual event, with this being the 25th year running. Produced by the Washington Heights & Inwood Development Corporation and supported by The City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation, it is one of the largest and most popular event held in all NYC parks. They expect a total of 40,000 visitors this year and guess what? Admission is free!

So, what is the festival all about? Well, the purpose of the festival is an attempt to bring to life the customs and spirit of the Middle Ages. Fort Tryon Park is transformed into a Medieval market town decorated with bright banners and processional flags. Performers, guests and festival goers dress in medieval costumes. Visitors are greeted by authentic medieval music, dance, magic, minstrels, as well as jugglers and jesters.

The moment we stepped out from the subway station, we were greeted by girls dressed in Medieval costumes, dancing to Medieval music. How cool is that? Something tells me it's gonna be one cool festival.

Since admissions to the festival is free, the organizers have set up two wishing wells at the entrance. You can help out with the production cost by donating a couple of dollars to the wishing well. The suggested donation is $2, which I feel is reasonable - given the size and how elaborate the event was.

You can also help yourselves to a free festival program booklet at the entrance. It's loaded with all the information you would need to enjoy the festival - a map of the whole festival grounds, times and locations of events and performances as well as write ups about the events.

Our first stop was The South Lawn Village. Here at the South Lawn Village Square, you can check out and buy all sorts of Medieval weaponry as well as watch various types of combat demonstrations.

There are also all kinds of stalls selling Medieval craft, clothes, jewelry...just about anything you can think of. Heck, you can even get your own pet dragon here! :P

On the other side of South Lawn Village is where you can learn all about Medieval crafts and watch life demos. There were all kinds of demos, from weaving to spooling yarn! Pretty interesting actually.

From the South Lawn Village, we made our way Centercheap Market. This is where all the Artisans gather to sell their wares. Here is one lady making and selling clay mugs.

Here is another crowd favorite. The blacksmith, his wife and a few apprentice were out in full force, making swords, knives and other cool stuff. Business was brisk too...I sometimes wonder what all those people do with the swords and other weaponry they buy from festivals like this? Take it out when their friends come over to play Dungeons and Dragons? :P

You can also see many street performers all over Centercheap Market, be it juggling, playing music or just telling stories from the past.

We managed to catch the Majesta Chanters, performing the Gregorian Chant. Interesting but I guess we sorta lost interest after a while..haha!

We continued walking and ended up at Sir Stan Wichels Tournament Field of Honor. Guess what we saw there? Yup, a princess riding a unicorn!! See, I told you guys that unicorns are real...but noooo, nobody believed me! Who's the loony one now??? :P

We then entered the Tournament Field to grab a seat and waited for the Children's Costume Parade to begin.

Here they are. Look at all the cutie pies marching around the field. Aren't they just adorable? Not much of a parade, they just walked around the field and ended by giving everybody a bow :P However, they were just soooo cute, so who cares if they just walked around the field. They did a good job! :D

After the parade, it was the event everybody was waiting for all day. King Rene's Joust Tournament!! A thrilling joust between four knights on horseback. Very exciting!

Now it's time for some food. Just opposite the Tournament Field is the Triangle Pub. Here you can get all kinds of food like fried dough and turkey legs. Look at all those yummy turkey legs on the grill! You can buy beer in giant Medieval steins or wine in goblets too. We didn't manage to buy anything, cos the line was just too long. Just how long is long? Well, there were at least about 60-80 people in every line. I overheard a lady complaining that she has been in line for almost an hour and it's not even her turn yet!! I think I'll give those turkey legs a pass. I know that the smell of the turkey legs grilling on an open fire was just so good, but no way will I wait in line for an hour just to get some.

Ahhh the famous Cloisters. The Cloisters incorporates several Medieval buildings that were purchased in Europe, brought to the United States, and reassembled, often stone by stone. You could go up there and check out the museum but we didn't really have enough time to fully enjoy it. We will have to return another day, just for The Cloisters.

There was also two childrens section - The Kids Zone and The Little Theatre. In The Kids Zone, there were all kinds of arts and craft like puppet making and costumes. There were storytelling and magic shows by Merlin the Magician in The Little Theatre. Kids also had a chance to meet Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham at The Little Theatre.

Another cool thing about the festival was that there were just musicians and performers everywhere you go. You see them sitting on rocks by the cliff, by the walkways or even on bales of hay :P After spending almost the whole afternoon at the festival, it was time to go home. It was my first Medieval Festival and I really enjoyed it. Everybody was so into it (a lot of visitors were also in costumes), for a brief moment, it felt like I just walked back into time. I will most definitely return next year for the 2010 Medieval Festival (this time, maybe in costume :P)!!


joeyz said...

u should hv been in costume!

seemed so so fun. wish i could hv been there :-)

sometimes i really miss the US, with all the fall festivals, street parades etc. esp when u don't hv to sweat in the sun :-)

Charlene n Kevin said...

Hahaha, we actually didn't know what to expect...since it's our first time attending such a festival. Next year I'll be in cosutme, ok? :P