PITTSBORO — I’ve always been intrigued by Renaissance fairs.
From the costumes to the characters who attend these types of events, it all encapsulates the stories of oddity and whimsy we remember from childhood. Stories of princesses, knights in shining armor, dragons and more are enough to fascinate anyone interested in “tales as old as time” itself.
Luckily enough, Chatham County has its own Renaissance fair — Mead Fest. This annual event hosted by Starrlight Mead, the meadery based out of The Plant in Pittsboro, features plenty of medieval fun, including, but not limited to, sword fighting knights, archery-inspired games, a Viking dining hall, mead tastings, vendor booths, medieval music (including a rendition of “In Da Club” by 50 Cent) and more.
I decided to make my way down to 213 Lorax Lane on Saturday with my roommate Ashley (who happens to be a mead lover) to experience firsthand what Mead Fest had to offer.
The event began at noon, but by the time I parked behind bmc brewing at 12:20 p.m., parking lots there were nearly full. We decided to get food at one of the food trucks, where I had some delicious carnitas tacos before heading down to look at the various booths and activities.
Hundreds of people walked around The Plant visiting the merchant booths. Some had organic goodies such as fresh honey and spices, while others had Renaissance clothing items like corsets and knight helmets.
There were also events people could watch, including a sword-fighting show, which displayed knights in armor duking it out with large swords until the referee, also dressed in medieval garb, declared a winner each round.
The undisputed star of the show, though, was the mead — an alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey that was available, along with many other beverages, at the festival. My roommate and I signed up to do Starrlight Mead’s tasting, where we tried eight different meads. I’ve had Starrlight’s peach mead before, which I loved. However, some of the mead flavors at the tasting were slightly outside my comfort zone (shout out to you, Wildfoam).
Despite being hesitant to try some of the flavors, I enjoyed all of them. My roommate ended up buying two bottles of mead, including the Wildfoam flavor we were so surprised by. I got Starrlight’s Honeyed Chai mead, infused with anise, cardamom and other spices commonly found in chai.
I also tried a cider flight from Chatham Cider Works, which has the best cider I’ve ever tried. The flight included a traditional spiced cider, lemon elderflower cider, pepper-infused cider and coffee cider (yes, you read that right). I was surprised by how much I loved the nontraditional ciders; in fact, the pepper one was my favorite.
While sipping on cider under some trees, I thought about how things like Mead Fest make Chatham County an interesting community. Chatham is home to plenty of unique spaces, including The Plant itself, as well as people who make the community what it is.
From meeting new friends at mead tastings, winding through crowds of lifelong and new residents, seeing parents let their children run around as fairies, princes, witches and warlocks, and seeing the joy the faux jousting brought to people are just a small part of the amazing places — like The Plant — and events, like Mead Fest, that highlight the distinct charm Chatham possesses.
It also reminded me how much Chatham will continue to change, especially with Wolfspeed and VinFast making their way to the area. Events like Mead Fest and places like The Plant, though, will remain havens where residents and nonresidents can gather to truly enjoy the amazing community provided here.
I’ll toast some mead to that.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.
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