In an atmosphere described by organizers as part boot camp, part picnic and part "total craziness," several hundred volunteers converged on the site of the Old Paramount Ranch in Agoura Saturday as preparations began for this year's Renaissance Pleasure Faire.
The event has long been known for its headlong pursuit of the trappings and customs of 16th Century England, including sword fights, royalty, hatred of France and a healthy love of grog.
The fair is produced by the Living History Centre, a nonprofit educational and cultural foundation. The event opens April 27 and runs for the next six weekends.
And while center volunteers labored Saturday to raise the necessary stages and booths, others began teaching Renaissance behavior to crowds of volunteers.
Beginning Saturday afternoon, a series of workshops were devoted to topics including "Elizabethan as a Second Language," "Introductory Swash and Buckle" and "Rounds, Catches and Bawdy Songs."
"The point is to chip away at your 20th Century selves," said history center staffer Kevin Brown, who spent the morning giving crash courses in 16th Century history and culture. "What we try to do is turn otherwise normal Angelenos into peasants, tarts, thieves, princes and so on."
The workshops are necessary, Brown said, because little at the event is scripted. Instead, volunteers create their own costumes and characters, with approval from the center.
The crowds at the workshops seemed a varied bunch, drawn from kingdoms as far away as San Diego and Santa Cruz. Some brought children and picnic lunches, while others brought pets or beer and wine.
Registration for the workshops continues today between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and again next weekend, Brown said. Registration is $5. The Paramount Ranch is located on Cornell Road in Agoura, near the City of Agoura Hills.