Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Renaissance Faire Birthday Party fit for a Prince

Max's ninth birthday is looming large, and the celebration promises to be.....well, let's just say he's once again raised the bar (while, surprisingly, kinda repeating a theme). It's made me hella anxious that I haven't yet blogged about his party from two YEARS ago.  Yes, I realize that blogging about a party that happened two years ago is hugely unimportant.  But in the interest of falling asleep tonight, imma doooit.

When Max was six, we started homeschooling in earnest.  We'd done some schooling off and on since he was 4, preschooly, kindergarteny stuff, but the fall he was six we got serious about FIRST GRADE.  We have always subscribed to a homegrown kind of homeschooling, a combination of Waldorf and Montessori and unschooling, I guess, is what describes us best.  Anyway, when he was six, he was really REALLY interested in the Renaissance.  I blame Tangled, I suppose, inasmuch as I *blame* Disney for most things in my life.  So we started off first grade with a big unit on the Renaissance, and when the opportunity presented itself to join some friends at the Carolina Renaissance Faire, we jumped.

It was somewhat surprising to me that six months later we were still in the throes of a Renaissance obsession, but there it was, and so there we had our birthday party theme for the year.

There is no Ren Faire without a castle, so that was my first order of business.  I discovered a great website for all of your best made in China junk that isn't available on Oriental Trading called Party Cheap, and managed to score all the stuff I needed to dress my garage as a photo-op-ready-castle for very little cost.

Garage castle.
I have a light fixture on one side of my garage door that was seriously going to interfere with my castle plans, so that's why I made the towers.  I wish I could remember where I got the extra-large cardboard boxes from, but that's all it was, under the plastic stone wall wrap.  My friend Jeff was instrumental in getting all that mess staple-gunned up, he and his family had a bit of a crash course in the insanity that is party day at my house.

the birthday boy and his lady fair.

Max really wanted a tent, like the kind you might find the soldiers living in in Narnia or Middle Earth (or even at the Quidditch World Cup) but there was no way I was really going to pull that off.  I did pull out the parachute and hang it from a tree, though, to evoke the idea a little bit.  A very little bit, I guess, but it provided a nice focal point for the banner-making station.  I'm pretty sure the sea creatures were still dangling from it, though.

A little bit tent-y.
There were not too many activities set up for this party outside of the main scavenger hunt, but I did think it would be fun to have a station set up for the kids to make banners.  I pre-cut rectangles of felt, I think they were about 11x14, and set the lovely Lisa to work attaching them to wooden dowels.  I had a bunch of pre-cut felt shapes and letters, and also plenty of extra felt for those feeling creative.  As always happens with arts and crafts projects, most kids did it, a few did not, and a few got so wrapped up in it that they barely did anything else for the whole party.

Making banners.  Oh, yep, see, sea creatures!
I always enjoy making up a Pin-the-Something-on-the-Something game, this time around it was Pin-the-Hair-on-Rapunzel.

Little cheater, amirite?

I had this big plan for a joust....I mean, right?  You have to have a joust at a Renaissance Faire party.  My kid was waaaaay into scooters at the time, and the idea of a scooter joust was too ridiculously awesome to skip.  It didn't really work very well, but it was pretty hilarious to watch. The kids wanted to do it for a lot longer than I personally though was entertaining.

Scooter Joust!
The main event was a scavenger hunt.  I planned this thing for weeks, but I didn't really *plan* it until about an hour before the party, so once again I called upon Lisa to help me write up short verses as clues.  You could easily customize these same verses for your own Renaissance scavenger hunt :)

We started at the stage on the side of the driveway (ohhh, right. I have a stage at the side of my driveway.  Is that weird?):
Sweet ladies, brave knights, there is terrible news! 
Your kingdom's treasure is gone and the kind has the blues.
Don't laugh, I'm not joking, do you think I would jest?
 You need to set off on an heroic quest.
 Find the treasure, recapture it, but fellows: BEWARE! 
 The trail will lead you close to the sea monster's lair.
Sea monster, because our house is on a lake.....the kids ran all helter-skelter straight there - I didn't say it was a DIFFICULT scavenger hunt!  I'd recruited a dad to read them this:
I see you are clever; 
You're well on your way.
 The treasure is near, so do not delay.
 There is someone to help you, she'll lend you a hand.
 You'll find her slumbering in the fairies' land.
And off they went.

The scavenger hunt is afoot!

A mom was stationed on the front porch, which was decorated with our old fairy tent and my fake wooden tree cut-out thingy....
Seek ye now the Grand Olde Hall, 
 And the brave knights who guard the wall.
Ask the fair maiden for your next path..... 
But beware the dragon's terrible WRATH!
The kids found another mom in front of the garage-castle, who shared this clue with them:
Look quick now, for the pit of fire.
Take care not to waken the dragon's ire.
Be brave and true and do your best,
for you may find a treasure chest!
and when they arrived at the patio (where our outdoor fireplace is) I was waiting for them with the treasure chest full of loot.

Oooooh.  PLAStic!
 Okay, but I had one more trick up my sleeve.  I told the kids that they had to go get the banners they'd made and parade past the prince as tribute, and then he would divvy up the treasure amongst all of his loyal subjects.  In the chaos of everyone finding their banners, I managed to dump the treasure out of the chest without anyone noticing, and took Max back to the stage.  The kids paraded past, then held up their awesome gold plastic goblets to receive some treasure.

I was kind of giddy with anticipation in this moment...

I opened the box......

I love that grin on his face!
 and revealed that the treasure had been stolen again!  At that moment (and this took some pre-planning with Adrian and my sister) the dragon piñata that we'd hung from the tree over the stage before the party began swung out over the guests, and I told them all they had to slay the dragon to get the treasure back.  Clever, right?  I was pretty pleased with myself over that one, I'm not gonna lie.

Slay the dragon!
The piñata was filled with candy, of course, and once they broke it open we just kind of tossed all the plastic jewels and beads over them as they scrabbled around for the candy. 

Once the dragon met its demise, it was cake time.  I know I don't have to tell you that this cake was so much grander in my mind:

Ice-cream-cone-castle-cake, it's a classic!
and that was the end of the Renaissance-themed festivities for the day.

Max, of course, attended the party in costume, getting another wear out of the Flynn Rider costume (but  his ankles were definitely starting to hang out of the bottoms of those pants by then!), and we added a manly looking crown to make him a bit more princely.  He was really pleased that several of his friends came in costume, as well.  His cousin Rebecca was perfectly attired, as always.

Princess Rapunzel and Prince Flynn
We also had knight helmets for the boys, and wreaths of flowers with loooooong ribbon streamers for the girls.  Those, plus the goblets filled with goodies from the piñata and the banner craft project were the take-home gifts for the guests.

One more shot of my precious kiddo, just because:

So grown up!
I swear, it is so much fun being this kid's parent.



  1. Lisa and I got talking about this party yesterday after I told her about this post, and I just wanted to thank you for including us in your family. We had such a great time helping out with this, we made memories that that will make us smile forever. However, I also attribute quite few of my grey hairs to Milo's heroically persistent attempts to throw himself into the pot of boiling turkey oil. Huzzah!!!!!

    1. Oh, OMG hahaha, I can't believe I didn't mention the food at all! Honestly, though, I can't even remember what I served aside from the fried turkey....

    2. Honestly, after sending poor Adrian twice to buy ALL the cooking oil in the Dollar General and barely avoiding both setting your yard on fire and killing your son, I didn't notice any other foodstuffs aside from the cake. Though I'm sure they were delicious :-)

  2. That was a great party! I love that you go all out with a theme - it's like a mini-theater production in your back yard. I do try my best whenever you give me arts and crafts projects :-) Thanks for making me tap into my almost non-existent creative side!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I couldn't have pulled this party off without you!


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