Dust? Yes. Blood? Yes. Death?

Don’t get your hopes up, no matter what the ads say.

The annual Michigan Renaissance Festival began Saturday in Holly, with the usual assortment of jugglers, dancers, fair maidens, bawdy wenches, gigantic turkey legs and — just the way King Arthur liked ’em — deep-fried Twinkies.

Also on the bill and all new, according to the festival’s ads:

“Joust to the Death.”

With jousting offered three times daily, at 1, 3 and 5 p.m., that seems like a lot of turnover. Also, you’d think Holly would have an ordinance or something against killing people with lances.

Sure enough, says festival director Kathy Parker, “People don’t actually die. They do bleed, but they don’t die.”

If that disappoints a few customers, they can at least be assured that this year’s troupe of jousters are “a little more grandiose” than the last bunch, says marketing coordinator Kim Heidger.

They’ll still demonstrate how to spear a ring at full gallop with a long pointed stick, but “they go a lot more into the theatrics.”

In other words, they’re more violent, and why not? Back in the Middle Ages, they didn’t playeth Tiddlywinks.

Modern jousters wear full metal armor, Heidger says, and jousting turns out to be enough of a career option that there are multiple touring companies.

Most states have at least one Renaissance fair to keep the knights occupied, and many have several. Michigan has at least five; along with the big one in Holly, which runs weekends through Oct. 4 plus Labor Day and Oct. 2, there are the Mayfaire in Marshall, the Mid-Michigan in Vassar, the BlackRock in Augusta and the student-run Grand Valley in Allendale.

Since very few hotels accept horses, the jousters from Noble Cause Productions are camping on the Michigan Renaissance Festival’s 17-acre site, where they can sharpen their skills and dull their swords.

“Maybe they’re not actually getting cut,” Heidger says, “but I imagine they’re in pain.”

For most spectators, that should be good enough.

Birds of a feather

Until recently, I did not know there was such a thing as a ruffed grouse, let alone that it had a fan club.

There is, in fact, a Greater Southeast Michigan Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, however, and it will hold its 38th annual banquet Sept. 16 at Laurel Manor in Livonia.

I have other plans that night, and I don’t expect you to go unless you have a particular interest in preserving healthy forests for ruffed grouses, woodcocks and other things you might like to shoot at.

I like learning things, though, and now that I’ve learned about the ruffed grouse, it’s only sporting to mention the event and provide the contact for tickets: Jim Gilsdorf at (734) 662-7512.

Mr. Gilsdorf says he isn’t sure what’s on the menu, but last year it was chicken.

A rocky start

On the subject of poultry, I had a terrific turkey burger for lunch Friday at the new Central Kitchen & Bar in downtown Detroit — and a busser had a very rough first day.

Central Kitchen is an airy and cool spot in an equally cool location, across from Campus Martius at 660 Woodward.

Our party of six was extremely fond of the lemon and garlic mussel appetizer, my esteemed mother-in-law was giddy over her pickled beet salad, and the only weak link was my son’s overcooked burger, which we weren’t charged for.

We also weren’t charged for his beer, which was dumped by the earnest, dark-haired busser into my sister-in-law’s lap.

At that point, the young lady had been on the job for all of two hours.

She was mortified and apologetic, and I have faith that things will get better for her. But in case they don’t, I hear there might be an opening for a jouster.


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