Celebrating the Renaissance and visiting submarines in the vast plains of Oklahoma!

I drove to The Castle, near the small town of Muskogee, where for decades now, the annual Oklahoma Renaissance Festival has been taking place. The scope of the festival is far in excess of what you would expect in a town of only 40,000.

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My main interest was the jousting, and I was not disappointed. The Lord welcomed all and introduced the main characters. The silly guy doing the can-can is the Ambassador from France. Ha!

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The lovely Joust Master.

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The “Good” Knight.

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The “Bad” Knight, getting his helmet on after the display of skills.

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And the jousting.

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They seemed to go pretty hard at it. If you look carefully, you can see pieces of wood flying in the air, as the red Knight broke his lance on the blue Knight’s shield. He got extra points for this.

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This eventually turned into a sword fight, before degenerating into a brawl, after much disgraceful and unchivalrous behaviour from the red Knight. I do believe the good guy won in the end.

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The Castle is a huge site with many permanent buildings. Artists from other cities or states actually reside on site during the festival. The whole thing is basically a giant busker festival, with a fairly loose “Renaissance” theme (which includes gypsies, pirates, fairies, and one guy dressed as Captain America!). One can attend the Court.

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The Royal Procession.

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Dancing, complete with the band in the background.

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I know nothing of medieval dancing, but they certainly seemed to know what they were doing.

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Other folks did roaming entertainment, such as these two Highlanders (hidden behind their victims), who told me a lot about the festival. Since I fell so far behind on keeping my blog up-to-date, I unfortunately don’t remember the name of their group. They began by dressing a couple of attendees in silly costumes. I escaped it on the pretext of having to capture the moment.

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Silly dancing followed. The guys were good sports about it, but their girlfriends/wives were really having a great time (in the background with pink phone, whistling).

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And a photo for posterity.

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A lot of booths featured arts and crafts with a medieval or somewhat related theme, and some artisans were practicing there craft on the spot, like this ironsmith.

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This mysterious fellow was playing a crazy sounding instrument; some sort of bell piano. I wonder if such an instrument ever existed.

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With beer, food and random mayhem like this, I can say the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival is worth a detour if you are in the Mid-South in June.

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The last thing I expected to find in Oklahoma, nearly 800 km from the ocean, was a submarine. The USS Batfish was commissioned in 1943, survived World War II and was floated on barges, with great difficulty, all the way from the shores of Texas. A 400 m trench had to be dug and flooded to bring her to her final resting place.

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I took advantage of having my wide angle lens with me and snapped these shots of the interior. As you can guess, this is the engine room.

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No touchscreen controls here.

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The communications room.

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The Officer’s Mess, where all meals, recreation and everything but work and sleep occurred. A little small for 10 Officers.

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The Men’s Mess is a little larger. However, there were 68 of them to share it!

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This closet sized space served as living quarters for two Officers.

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This not very big room served as living quarters for a lot of sailors. I’m not sure what was more desirable, sleeping in this cramped dorm…

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Or over the torpedoes!

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An enjoyable visit, especially for anyone who has never set foot in a submarine, but the plaques remind us of somber realities. Although the United Sates, Canada and most of our close allies have lost many soldiers and sailors in the wars of the 21st Century, I always find it difficult to even conceive of the kind of losses suffered in the wars of the 20th Century. Each one of these plaques commemorates not the loss of a sailor, but of a ship. By the end of the war, the US Navy had lost 52 submarines, taking 374 Officers and 3,131 men to the bottom of the seas.

On a completely different but also tragic note, I stayed in Arkansas an extra day because of the tornado warnings. A good move, as 377 people were wounded and 23 killed that day in the general area where I was planning to get a hotel. I wanted to go to Oklahoma City, but I didn’t want to drive through Moore, where most of the destruction occurred. I did not much like driving as a carefree tourist in the burned down villages of Tasmania after the forest fires there about 6 months ago. From the online booking sites, I could also tell that a lot of local residents must have been staying in hotels, as few were available and the rates were very high. So I skipped Oklahoma’s largest city altogether and headed for Kansas.

#USA

3 thoughts on “Celebrating the Renaissance and visiting submarines in the vast plains of Oklahoma!

  1. The “bell piano” is called a carillon. Very popular in the day. We have one in the original city hall of our town and they play it on special occasions like Christmas. Very impressive. You can hear it all over downtown. Google and you can probably find some neat videos.

    • Thanks James. It didn’t occur to me this was the same instrument we usually find in bell towers, just the mobile version. Here in Ottawa, we have one in Parliament’s Peace Tower. I found a Youtube video of the carillonneur who performed at the Renaissance Festival. He was really captivating:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGR4Lj8cpYs

      It’s a very impressive instrument. If I was a very rich man, I would buy one for the grade-school children of all the people I don’t like 😉

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