Nerd-Off: Ren Fest vs. Comic-Con

Nerd-Off: Ren Fest vs. Comic-Con

Lauren PesinTuesday,29 September 2015

Last weekend, the DC metro area (Maryland to be more specific) was host to both the Maryland Renaissance Festival (Ren Fest) and the Baltimore Comic-Con (comic convention).  These types of events can draw in more than 150,000 attendees in one weekend.

Both venues seem to attract and certainly welcome the socially awkward.  I thought to myself which is “nerdier”?  It’s hard to say. That’s when I knew, only a “Nerd-Off” could settle the question.

In this context, the word “nerd” is defined simply as traditionally intelligent, typically socially awkward, and generally obsessed with a hobby or interest which is displayed by participating in a gathering of like-minded fans.  Here, we are talking about comic book and renaissance era fans.

Attendees are encouraged to dress the part (see video below). Superheroes and comic book characters are abundant at comic-cons, ranging from the super skimpy Marvel women costumes (size doesn’t determine outfits) to spooky villains, assassins, and creatures ala video games. This year, the most common characters I saw were slutty and unique depictions of Harley Quinn and Deadpool (gender irrelevant). I’m guessing these will also be the most common Halloween costumes this year given the Suicide Squad and Deadpool movie hype.

At Ren Fest (see video below), however, the prolific, always amusing, and sometimes appealing wenches (size irrelevant) remained the most popular.  Also, kings, queens, princesses, fairies, knights, peasants, and pirates roamed the grounds.  Sounds fun, right?

Let’s review the other happenings.

– Breasts of all shapes and sizes are pushed up and out – check.
– Men wearing tights – check.
– People in character reciting lines from movies, plays, or books – check.
– People wearing horns, feathers, wings, and possibly glitter in one’s hair or on one’s face – check.
– Overpriced weapons, including swords, sharpened throwing stars, and blades of all sizes adorned with intricate and decorative handles – check and check.
– Music of the era; meat on sticks; a plentiful supply of alcohol; and games involving axes, fire, or arrows – check for Ren Fest.
– Attendees on a mission – check for Comic-Con. Comic book fans often come equipped with a list of wanted books (commonly over a hundred) or autographs and a highlighter or pen to track their progress on the hunt. To my knowledge, similar pursuits aren’t a part of Ren Fest. I’m interested to know if there are any items at Ren Fest that are exclusively sought there.
– Body odor from the crowd – check and check.  It’s a little less noticeable at Ren Fest as it takes place outside in a larger and more open environment than your average Comic-Con.
– Super friendly attendees – check and check.

Although the dress and behavior of your typical fan and attendee of both Comic-Con and Ren Fest would be looked at as weird or nerdy in the general population, both events celebrate diversity, encouraging and admiring every sparkle, wand, and cape. Subsequently, a welcoming come-as-you-are sense of community – check and check.

All-in-all, I can’t say which is nerdier and after reviewing both, I’m not sure it’s a fair question.

Considering the dress, behavior, and activities at both events, Ren Fest may be slightly less mainstream and a little more unusual. However, since most people go to Ren Fest mainly to drink, play games, and eat fair food – Ren Fest is much like any festival or fair. Therefore, the “Nerd-Off” has resulted in a tie.

Regardless of your interest and level of nerd comfort, Ren Fest and Comic-Cons events are experiences worth at least one visit. I imagine like a Star Trek convention. Check them out. Don’t worry… nobody will call you a nerd.

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Image Credit: Jeff Kubina on Flickr

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