History of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire

IF YOU CAME of age in California in the 1960s and were fortunate in your life choices, you no doubt at one time or another experienced the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Although it originated in 1963 in Southern California’s Agoura Hills (over 3,000 people attended), the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire also had a memorable run. That one started at Marin’s China Camp State Park in 1967 and by 1970 had moved to Novato’s hilly Black Point area, where the above photo was taken.

Of course, the fair was headlined as taking place at Black Pointe Forest, for more authentic 16th-century English country flavor. Fair personnel, all 2,500 of them on average, attended 30 different classes and workshops in Elizabethan style and folklore and, once the fair began, wore period attire, including ruffs, jerkins and snoods. Booths in pastoral settings sold handicrafts of the bygone era, madrigal singers entertained and food stands offered fattened turkey legs and tankards of dark ale.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire was born in the minds of Ron and Phyllis Patterson, an art director and art teacher, respectively; both were adamant that Renaissance history and customs be presented as accurately as possible. The couple lived for many years in Marin and divorced in 1980, and their brainchild was sold in 1994; today, imitator renaissance fairs are held throughout the world. Ron died at age 80 in 2011 while living in a Sausalito floating home; Phyllis, who lived in a log cabin in Novato, passed away in 2014 at 82. Their son Kevin, who grew up during the Renaissance Pleasure Faire’s most successful years and later was active in the business, still lives in Marin. He and his family manage San Francisco’s annual Dickens Christmas Fair.