Within reach Washer wenches, the mud pit, the dunking pond and the Field of Honour; the Queen and the Bishop, swordfighting, acrobatics, jugglers, bawdy humor and some seriously intelligent humor – they can all be found at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling, NY.

It's an hour and a half drive from Lansing, just past where Route 38 ends, almost to Lake Ontario. And it's worth the trip! The Faire opens at 10AM after about 15 minutes of the actors bantering about with the patrons and preparing them for the fun inside. The cannon explodes and the crowd is admitted in delighted anticipation of the day to come.

monroe Sterling 3798

The first-timers can't quite believe what they see – it is so far out of 'normal' experience – and the regulars happily play along with the cast. My family are 'regulars', having attended for at least 30 of the faire's 40 years in business. And we always come to the event in appropriate costume. Weekends have themes – July 22 and 23 is the 'Highland Fling', so a kilt might be appropriate for the manly men. The 29'th and 30'th is the Pirate Invasion. Wear your piraty stuff – there might be a costume contest, but don't come as Jack Sparrow. Too many Jack Sparrows.

It's all good fun, a mixture of Olde England, a bit of contemporary humor and endless sight gags. The mud show is the bottom of the pit as far as intelligent humor, dirty (muddy), lots of falling into mud and splashing. They start with throwing a rock, and depending on how far the splatter goes. 'It's a Ten Row SHOW!' – so if you want to remain clean, be in row 11 or farther back.

On the other end of the 'intelligence spectrum' is 'Zilch, the Tory Seller' whose story telling in spoonerisms is among the fastest and most challenging acts I've seen. And it's hilariously funny. I thought I would pass out, I was laughing so hard. Spooner-isms are when you mix the first sounds of words. 'Young and Handsome Prince' becomes 'Hung and Pansome Yince'. Jomeo and Rouliette is, of course, the advanced class. Zilch is not the biggest or most popular act, but is really a 'must see'.

The swordplay of Don Juan and Miguel has been entertaining the crowds for 30 years now and they are only getting better. Have you heard that it takes a genius to play a fool? Miguel is that genius. Doug Kondziolka who plays Miguel is the director of the entire cast of the faire. I'm also seriously impressed with his radiant kindness.

monroe Sterling 3796

Our favorite musical group 'Empty Hats' also has been performing at Sterling ever since we have been attending. With many albums to their credit including 'The Hat Came Back', 'Whiskey and Waves' and 'Captured', they are masters at spinning stories and melodies both touching and irreverent.

The centerpiece of the fair is the Armoured Joust presented by the New Riders of the Golden Age. The jousters and owners of this troupe have become friends since my son worked with them from 2002 to 2012. It took a full year of training before they would let him joust in a public performance. What you may not know is that the jousts themselves are not staged. The winner is truly the winner due to skill and nerve. The rest of the show is all choreographed, but the jousts are real. The lances are 1.25 inch fir dowel, and not made to shatter for the crowd. When they shatter, it's real, and the hit has been on target. Ouch!

Many vendor booths line the paths through the Faire. Leather craftsmen, glass artisans, jewelers, kiltmakers and armour smiths, crafts of every type, and a wand and walking stick merchant (who will be visiting Ithaca for the Wizarding Weekend this October 27-29); they all will welcome you warmly and invite you to return before you leave the Faire. I have never felt pressure to buy from any of the merchants.

monroe Sterling 3819

And the food. Steak on a Steak, Fish and Chips, Mile High Cakes, Apple Dumplings and of course everybody's favorite, the Turkey Leg. Prepare to sample the foods, but be forewarned, the prices may be steep but the portions are generous.

In costume or not, wear good walking shoes. The Faire is located on a side hill with the Jousting field in the flat space at the bottom of the hill. You WILL be walking a lot! Drinking water will help too – we hydrate before we go in and after we come out.

monroe Sterling 3835

There is MUCH more to it, but I don't want to spoil the many surprises in store for you!

All the pertinent information including purchasing tickets can be done at their web site. The Faire runs weekends from July 1-2 to August 12-13, and (surprise, surprise) it's Within Reach!

'Within Reach' highlights the food, wine and fun of places 'within Reach' of Lansing NY.  Of course, your reach extends exactly as far as you want it to. I am Monroe Payne, Uncle Monte to some. Come with me as I visit, taste and play in our own back yard, the beautiful Finger Lakes of Central New York.