Event: Midwinter Fair
When: December 7 & 8 2013
What: Fantasy Fair
Where: Archeon, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands
For the 11th time already, Midwinter Fair took place at the archeological park of Archeon on a cold December weekend. This year we were in better luck than the last, as there was no snow and persistent rain. Other than some drizzle on occasion, the weather stayed bright and lovely, which was a distinctive bonus when it came to exploring the domain, which really is awesome and very suited to events like these.
Contrary to other fantasy fairs, Midwinter Fair offers more historically inspired entertainment throughout ranging from story tellers, puppeteers, various roaming musicians in medieval and fantasy garb to herbologists and pagan weddings. But aside from the historical character that distinguishes this fair from others, they also add contemporary elements such as martial arts displays, horseback acrobatics and steampunk camp, set up by The Steampunk Objective.
Whilst the Objective sets up impressive enough encampments every event they attend, the one at Midwinter Fair seemed to really have gone up a notch.
The big “living” tent was absolutely awesome, with the comfortable sofas and steampunk prop displays, as well as members of the group going about their business, created a fun atmosphere that really introduced people to how fun steampunk can be.
And the steampunk hot beverages stand was most welcoming to ward off the chill. We were lucky that it wasn’t as cold as winters can be, but a warm drink was very nice nonetheless. As was the fire pot surrounded by comfortable benches in the middle of the camp.
Aside from all of this they set up a variety of shows (which may or may not start on time) and they do their best to really go with their theme.
This year they tied in with the Game of Thrones hype and went for “Winter is Coming”, choosing the side of House Stark. You could find A4sized notice posters asking for Stark recruits, the capture of members of House Lannister, etc. They also had a Game of Thrones themed show and House Stark encampment where people could participate in a sword fighting demo. And to top it off, they had a HBO iron throne set up like you see at many other conventions. But with less of a crazy queue for it. Of all the themed events I’ve been to, this one was definitely the one that made most out of the theme, and without becoming overbearing too. They had a really good balance of going with it so everyone that wanted to participate in it, and those that didn’t want to could ignore it.
Food isn’t cheap, but it’s not extortionately priced either. You can get it throughout most of the event, from stands both outside and inside. The options are rather limited though, so if you’re a picky eater or simply don’t want to eat soup, fries, tiny pancakes, apple pie, sausage buns or sandwiches with veg, cheese or ham, you may want to consider bringing your own. Which is allowed, so starving can be avoided. And for the fast food fans, there’s a McDonalds across the street from Archeon as well.
And whilst we’re on the subject of spending money: shopping wise this fair is a dream, they put most of their stores in large tent like complexes set up for the occasion, and to add extra buildings to the already existing ones, which is great in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. They also have stages in them where bands perform or workshops on things like the basics of historical dance, which are always popular. But the fact that they are safe from the weather if it acts up isn’t what makes it awesome, it is the diversity that does. You see quite a few stores you don’t see at other events, creating the opportunity to shop for things you would otherwise have to do quite a bit of searching for online, or pay hefty shipping fees. And this generally for very reasonable prices.
My friend with her brand new leaf pauldron.
All of this combined, together with the overall atmosphere and unique domain of Archeon,
makes that Midwinter Fair is an altogether different type of event, definitely worth to brave the winter for. Like a girl in my own steampunk crew aptly stated: you don’t go there to show off your costume like you do at other fantasy events, you go there to see your friends and have a good time around the fire. And whilst there are of course plenty of things absolutely worthwhile to see, do and participate in, this does sum up the fair quite nicely. You do see awesome costumes, but dressing up to be seen is definitely not the prime idea behind it, having a great time is, and the fair does a great job providing a fun day for visitors with all the wide variety of things they put on.
Of course we took many more photos, which you can see here.