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Travel through time in nearby Carnation
Remlinger Farms and the Camlann Medieval Village are two one-of-a-kind day destinations a few miles outside of Carnation, Wash., just a hop, skip and a jump from Mercer Island. Am I suggesting that you do both in one day? I’m afraid not — but getting out to either or both of these grand adventures is sure to make your 2009 summer a memorable one.
There is always something new down on the farm. Remlinger Farms Country Fair and Family Fun Park is acres (and acres!) of outdoor and indoor fun. During its three decades of operation, first as a produce stand, then gradually as a full-scale attraction, Remlinger Farms has cultivated a reputation for its authentic steam engine and its pony rides, for the annual Strawberry Festival (starting June 13) and the October Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Patch. And it is growing every year.
“Our focus is ages 10 and under. We’ve designed the park to be a safe environment for young children, including an area for ages 4 and under,” says Bonnie Remlinger, who owns the farm with her husband, Gary, daughter Diane Remlinger-Hart and son-in-law Will Hart.
Dressed casually in white shorts and a T-shirt, the diminutive Bonnie takes me on an impromptu tour of her 200-acre working farm, hundreds of employees, her beloved animals and the thousands and thousands of children and parents who visit each year.
As we pass each ride, from the mini-ferris wheel to the antique cars (the actual vintage 1962 Seattle World’s Fair cars that Elvis rode in), Remlinger repeatedly points out safety measures. At the Hay Jump and horizontal climbing wall, she comments, “We’ve put mattresses under there.”
In addition to the fun park, visitors flock to Remlinger for hands-on interaction with life on the farm. In addition to the peacocks, turkeys and ponies, there’s the 4-H Animal Barnyard, which recently welcomed three baby goats. (They come into the world as miniature replicas of adult goats, hooves and all. Only really tiny.)
The museum-style Wildlife After Dark exhibit is a recent addition. “It shows all the night animals that roam the farm after the sun goes down, the ones the children don’t otherwise get to see when they come here.” In realistic-looking night scenes, elk, cougar, fox and many other wild and nocturnal animals of the Northwest are on up-close display.
The Summer Theatre features world-renowned Eric Ode, a children’s singer/songwriter and recipient of four Parents’ Choice Awards. Ode uses puppets in his energetic, interactive shows, three times daily from June 21 through Labor Day.
There is a U-Pick part of the farm, too — raspberries, blueberries, and normally, strawberries, though not this year. At the end of the tour, Bonnie Remlinger takes me out to the fields, where scarecrows stand vigil over this year’s crop of pumpkins just planted. A big pile of flood debris looms nearby.
“When the Tolt River dike broke last January,” she says, “it flooded our fields. So no U-Pick strawberries this season, but as always, we’ll have our terrific Strawberry Festival, with plenty of local Washington strawberries and lots of strawberry shortcakes.”
Camlann Medieval Village
A few miles north of Carnation, just off highway 203 on Kelly Road, enter the Camlann Medieval Village and savor the mystical days of yore in England. Yea, verily, I jest not. Get thyself hence to the year 1376, to Arthurian Somerset shire.
The Camlann Medieval Village has been around for 29 years and is one of the very few first-person living history museums of medieval times in the entire United States. At the gate, travelers are welcomed with a few simple rules. The gate is the ‘transition portal.’ On passing through it, any villager you encounter, be it the freemen archers, the wool-dyer, the carpenter, innkeeper, village scribe or whomever, will speak to you in character. Cotes and wimples (medieval clothing) are not required, although you will definitely see genuine medieval garb. To get into the mood, costumes are available for rent.
Is time travel so easy? Forsooth (indeed), you will experience a powerful transformation. England in the 14th century had no electricity, no appliances, no motors and very little contact or trade with the wider world.
For lunch, the Bors Hede Inn serves a potage cooked on an open hearth. True to the time period, there is no light switch to better illumine the daylight kitchen. Authenticity, meticulous research and care goes into every detail of this village of Tudor-style dwellings.
Roger Shell, president of the Camlann Association, interrupted his role as innkeeper and guest house dauber to step outside the gate and have a modern word with me. “This year, we’re building a working medieval forge,” he said. “We’ve commissioned a blacksmith, and at the moment he’s collecting the hand-forged iron needed. Blacksmiths from all over will be participating. Such a forge hasn’t been made in possibly a hundred years.” The Village will be making a video of the process.
The Camlann Medieval Village is a nonprofit organization with a year-round schedule of events, as well as ways to volunteer and get involved. Village Life days, occurring each weekend through July 12, bring history to life through demonstrations of typical working people in a 14th century English village. The popular Summer Festivals, which bring in musicians, jugglers and more village personalities, are schedule to run weekends from July 18 through Aug. 23. This year’s play, “Ywayn: Knight of the Lion,” will be performed at 12:30 and 4:30 by the Camlann Company of Players during Summer Festival.
And the feasts! My lunch ($9) of cheeses and fruit on a bread trencher, of vegetable potage in an earthenware bowl with a wooden spoon, was delicious and hefty enough for two. (Be warned — young children may turn up their noses.) Summer Feasts, which coincide with Summer Festival weekends, begin at 6 p.m. and include an opening trumpet fanfare, 12 dishes in two courses, minstrels and servers in character. Reservations are required for dinners (Tuesday through Saturday year-round), cash or check only. Other special feast days include Michaelmasse (Sept. 26), All Hallows (Oct. 31).
Islander Claire Gebben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.