Blast From the Past: Historic Renaissance Faire Advertisements from the LA Free Press

Renaissance Pleasure Faire logo

Have you ever flipped through the pages of an old publication and found yourself transported back in time to a specific moment in your childhood? Something like that recently happened to me when I looked at a pair of advertisements for the Renaissance Pleasure Faire published in the Los Angeles Free Press, the legendary underground newspaper founded by Art Kunkin in 1964. 

I learned about these fascinating ads from J.J. Englender, a Los Angeles-based historian and archivist. He runs ADSAUSAGE, which “…preserves historical material and provides an exhaustive archive of vintage advertising spanning the past five decades.”

Advertising as a Window on the Past

Englender’s pitch was straightforward. He’d recently curated a selection of original artifacts and covers from the Los Angeles Free Press and thought I’d be interested in the material. His hunch was right. I spent time perusing the ads and reading the accompanying essays. Using advertisements as the jumping off point of a history lesson is an effective approach and one that kept me engaged and wanting more.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire Advertisements

Published in the Los Angeles Free Press, April 1966 (L) and 1968 (R). Scanned by ADSAUSAGE.

When I came upon the Renaissance Pleasure Faire ads, what triggered my memories, aside from the event name itself, were their folksy look and amusing text. These are not polished pieces of advertising that appeared in some mass produced publication. Instead, they capture the event’s essence, which is down to earth and joyous. They are also stylistically similar to other advertisements that appeared in the same publication during the 60’s and 70’s. Just take a look at a few examples below.

Double Trip Show Advertisement

Published in the Los Angeles Free Press, February 1967. Scanned by ADSAUSAGE.


Published by the Los Angeles Free Press, March 1970. Scanned by ADSAUSAGE.

The Renaissance Faire – Circa 1973

If you’re not familiar with the Renaissance Faire, it’s “…a re-creation of a typical spring celebration in a rural English village during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.”¹ I have wonderful memories of attending the Faire as a child, which at the time was held at the Paramount Ranch – now part of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. In those days the rolling hills between Thousand Oaks and Woodland Hills were largely undeveloped, so you really felt like you’d left the city when you entered the fairgrounds shaded by mature Oak trees.

What I particularly remember about the Faire were the strolling minstrels, the talented troubadours, the puppet shows, the ornate period costumes, and the many craft stalls. The food also stands out in my mind, especially the corn on the cob and large Turkey legs that my brothers and I enjoyed as we wandered the dusty grounds.

dulcimersThe Faire’s most lasting impact on my life, however, relates to music because it’s where I fell in love with the Appalachian dulcimer. I remember being captivated by their sound and variety of design. Many were adorned with beautiful inlays and constructed of unique wood combinations. If I close my eyes I can still hear the musicians playing English folksongs, such as Greensleeves, and feel myself transported to another time and place. That experience led me to purchase my own dulcimer in my early teens and take lessons at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

Although I haven’t attended the Renaissance Faire in many years, writing this post reminded me how much I enjoyed the event as a child. I’m therefore resolved to experience the Faire again in its current incarnation. My hopes are high that I’ll be fully enveloped in its alternate reality.

Want to learn more about the history of the Renaissance Faire? Visit this web site created by the family that founded the event. 


¹ Ken Williams, WEEKENDS OF YORE : Renaissance Pleasure Faire Celebrates the Days and Knights of Merry Olde England (Los Angeles Times, June 04, 1992)