My Banquet Experience
By Pats Lundberg-Day
Last year was my first year at the Abbey Festivals’ Medieval Banquet and WOW! My Husband and I had been anticipating it as I prepared our outfits for the night. We had some preconceptions about how it might be but in no way were we expecting what we got. Did it live up to our expectations? NO IT DID NOT! To be truthful it far exceeded them all.
When we arrived we joined the line waiting patrons who had also obviously spent many hours and or dollars on their costumes. The display of regalia was superb, from full skirts to fur hats, belts garnished by every medieval accessory required for such an event. As the line moved we had the opportunity to watch other Lords & Ladies take their turn to have a photo taken of themselves in a special portrait booth and, of course, we had ours done also. What a great souvenir of the night!
Our anticipation grew as we edged closer to the Banquet Hall, spurred on by medieval buskers. We approached the table with tickets in hand and were introduced to our first medieval custom of the night. Our hands were washed with fragrant rose-scented water and gently dried. I mean, the last time that happened to me I was a wee toddler and the washer was my Mum. Off to a good start.
We entered a Banquet Hall, the surrounding walls covered with giant banners, tables decorated with ivy and candles, subdued lighting (but not dark) at the front of the Hall was the High Table for Honoured Guests. Unfortunately we were not to be seated there but had been lucky enough to purchase tickets on the centre isle and quite close to the front. We found our seats and sat for several moments just taking it all in. My husband was a little confused as to why there was the cut bottom of a large round loaf of bread in front of him. Luckily the person next to him had been to previous events and stopped him before he could break off a piece of the bread. ‘That’s your plate’ he said and proceeded to educate us about the ‘trencher’. Phew, just dodged our first arrow.
Then we spotted the Bar and made our way across. I ordered a Mulled Wine and Hubby had a Honey Mead. Both were so yummy we were back in the line soon after for seconds.
We just made it back to our seats when the Honoured Guests arrived in a procession down the isle. I curtsied deeply and Hubby bowed low as they passed by. The Steward of the Hall introduced each of the High Table Guests. Oh my Goodness, this guy kept us in stitches all night with medieval style banters and quips. At one point he chanted something in Latin and his voice was so powerful it gave me goose bumps.
The sumptuous food was served over several courses, or ‘removes’ in medieval terms, each platter was shared among those seated around us and there was plenty to go around. If there was anything left on the platters my Hubby cleaned them off. He’s a huge eater that never puts on weight so I was quite astonished that he commented on how full he was by the end.
Throughout the night my excitement levels were kept high by entertainment from the Steward of the Hall, roving minstrels, a band of gypsy dancers in stunning costumes and jewellery. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better the Fire Tribe performed a breathtaking display. I could have reached out and touched them and the heat which emanated from their fire sticks and hoops took my heart rate to fever pitch.
All too soon the Honoured Guests were escorted from the High Table. We were reluctant to leave the Hall and the new friends we’d made, but all good things must come to an end. We talked about the event all the way home and then went through it all again over a coffee & port, promising that we would return for the next years’ Banquet.
We saw the Facebook post on the Abbey Medieval Festival page about the new ‘Premium Seating’. I thought “Oh my, I can get all this again plus the ability to rest my tender tushy on a cushy. I’m getting our tickets the day they go on sale”.
To finish up, I can’t wait till Banquet night is upon us again, Tickets have been purchased and printed out, costumes have been made and we’re bringing friends with us who have never been before. I can’t wait to see the smiles on their faces. My only regret is that we have to wait a whole year between events.