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Pride and Renaissance Faire collide at Mid-Michigan festival

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Anna Spidel
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Michigan Radio
Visitors play pirate-themed games under pride flags at the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival's first-ever "Pride is in the Faire" event.

Extravagant floats, lip-syncing drag queens and lively pop tunes - these are just a few of the sights and sounds that fill the streets each June during Pride. But this July, a new type of Pride has come along - one filled with pirates, princesses, and even the occasional jousting match.

Tucked away in a forest in Vassar, Michigan, the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival runs every year for three weekends in July. This year, festival-goers had a chance to flaunt their pride renaissance-style at the first ever “Pride is in the Faire” event on Saturday, July 23.

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Anna Spidel
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Michigan Radio
Along the paths of the Mid-Michigan Enchanted Forest, costumed patrons browse an array of tents.

The annual festival is held in a small wooded area called the Mid-Michigan Enchanted Forest, where visitors can expect to see extravagant costumes, rows of quaint tents, and colorful banners sprawled out along shaded paths. This year, pride flags were also out in abundance. Dressed in a homemade pirate outfit, living history enthusiast Nicole Mai attended the festival for the first time in hopes of finding an inclusive event for the whole family.

Basically, my entire family is queer of some kind. And we love the like, the living history things,” Mai said. “We've got to bring them both together. And where better to do it?”

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Anna Spidel
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Michigan Radio
At the tavern, customers chatted while sipping mead, ale, and other renaissance-appropriate libations.

Aside from the added twist of LGBTQ+ celebration, visitors at “Pride is in the Faire'' were offered all of the regular festivities and activities that one can usually expect from a renaissance fair. Crowds of merry patrons enjoyed mead and turkey legs as a rotating cast of musicians performed in the tavern area, while children tried their hand at the blacksmith station nearby.

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Anna Spidel
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Michigan Radio
In a colorful shack filled with pride flags, a vendor adjusts a jewelry display.

Several winding paths were lined with vendors of every variety. This year, artisan Yvette Hugan came to join other vendors at the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival for the first time. According to Hugan, who owns the Silk Road Clothier, “Pride is in the Faire” provided a unique and fun atmosphere to sell her colorful hand-dyed creations.

“People have been great here, and the management is awesome as well. And yeah, it's nice to do something different for a change, actually, you know, kind of change it up. Change is inevitable, but it's a good thing sometimes,” said Hugan.

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Anna Spidel
/
Michigan Radio
Colorful tie-dye clothing is on display at the Silk Road Clothier tent, owned by Yvette Hugan.

Situated next to a small amphitheater, Yvette Hugan’s tent became the perfect place to browse vibrant attire after catching a show by the local thespians. After all, rainbows are a necessity - even at the renaissance festival - and Hugan’s tent was filled with rainbow tie-dye attire.

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Anna Spidel
/
Michigan Radio
At the Moon Castle Stage, visitors watch as thespians put on an interactive performance.

For the first time at the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival, visitors had a chance to leave the stresses of everyday life at the gates and step into a world where every person can be anything they want to be. According to Nicole Mai, it’s the perfect judgment-free zone for anyone and everyone who has ever felt like they don’t quite fit in.

“We don't have to pretend to be somebody we're not. We can be this weird,” Mai said. “This is an everyday outfit for me, and out in the world I get all of these, like, weird looks and sneers and like, what are you wearing? And here it's just like, I'm just me and the kids can just be them. And I love it so much. It just - it feels very free.”

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Anna is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
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