Camp brings the middle ages to life for Twig's Renaissance Faire

Every day we encounter technology that we don't understand, politics that seem too tangled and obfuscated to change, a world where what seems bad is proved to be good and vice versa. We're walking a treadmill, unable to grasp how to change the wa...

Every day we encounter technology that we don't understand, politics that seem too tangled and obfuscated to change, a world where what seems bad is proved to be good and vice versa. We're walking a treadmill, unable to grasp how to change the way things are. There must be a way out, we think, but how?

Some people have chosen to live in another era altogether.

At the Olde World Renaissance Faire in Twig, you'll see some of these time travelers. The fair, which will takes place Saturday and Sunday, was founded by Mark and Dale Ann Widen, who live in a romantic wooden cottage nearby. They wanted to create a venue for traditional artisans to sell their work. It began in 1998 with 13 tables in the Twig Town Hall, and grew into a full-fledged Renaissance Faire in 2004.

The Knight: Carlo Tuzzio

Carlo Tuzzio loves renaissance knowledge. And he likes to make it real.


When he was 6 he visited the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Standing in the great hall of arms and armor, gazing upat the file of horsemen clad in gleaming dark steel, he knew what he wanted to do.

He has a full suit of plate armor. He has a battle steed -- his horse, Caesar. He knows maybe everything there is to know about the history of knighthood, of arms, of cavalry warfare. And he'll tell you all about it.

But he takes pains to say that he's not a re-enactor. "I'm an educator, a historian. I like to relate the history of the knight from his beginning to his decline."

But he does it the fun way: by traveling to festivals like this one (as well as schools and other settings) with a medieval knight's encampment, his horse and his authentic armor. He rides the horse, wields the swords and wears a beard, just like his Lombard ancestors might have. His enemy? Misconceptions about knightly history.

"An example: People think that if a knight fell over in full armor, he was as helpless as a turtle on his back. This is false. Knights were professional soldiers who could afford the finest protection -- often landowners, like millionaires today. Why would they buy this?"

Along with many other knightly facts, he offers this: a "free lance" was a knight who wasn't bound to a lord, free to sell his services to the highest bidder.

"That kind of bursts the bubble of the chivalric knight," Tuccio said.

In the late middle ages, he says, a knight was expected to live up to standards of ethics and chivalry but only in regard to people of the same class. The knighthood was a fraternity. Knights seldom tried to kill each other, he said. Instead they would capture each other to get ransom payments.


"Knights' wealth and status was another form of armor," Tuccio said.

Maybe the times weren't any simpler then than now.

Clan Tartan: Chief Camp Follower Lisa Gillstrom

"The year we live in is 1630, when the Thirty Years War was being fought in Europe. We're in Scotland. Gustavus Adolphus was sending recruitment groups for his Protestant armies, and the Scottish Highlands was impoverished. A prime source of income was providing mercenaries. We are Colonel Gaffney's Regiment of Pike and Shot," said Lisa Gillstrom, a member of the living history group.

Gillstrom is the Chief Camp Follower of Clan Tartan. The group members portray specific people at a particular tumultuous time -- the Thirty Years War pitted Protestants against Catholics across Europe.

But when she describes living the life of a 17th-century camp follower, "peaceful" is the word she uses. "A great number of us do things in our day-to-day life that we do here -- our horning guy [who crafts things out of cow horn], one of our spinners and weavers ... There's a depth to what people take home."

Gillstrom describes the experience of the group as a family. "The word 'clan' actually means family. Everyone has their family of blood, but to a great many of us Clan Tartan is our family," she said.

The group is a varied community. "We represent the military side, and we represent the camp side. There was no mail, military wages couldn't get to the families," Gillstrom said.


Families became camp followers, practicing all the necessary crafts: spooncarving, foundry, leatherwork, weaving, woodworking.

"We have a dozen children, they show how children lived and what they played, and some of the younger lads are involved in military training -- boys were recruited at age 12 or so. But it wasn't all work; there was a lot of joy," she said.

Gillstrom and her husband have four children. She relishes seeing them grow into their roles. "My kids know skills that most people will never know -- my daughter can spin wool and light fires with flint."

It's a different world, unfolding right here in this one.

ANN KLEFSTAD covers arts and entertainment for the Duluth News Tribune. Read her blog, Makers, at, and at Area Voices on Reach her at .

What To Read Next
Get Local