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When it comes to the Renaissance era, this part of the lesson is the most fun.
Published Oct. 22, 2008

Jesters and dancing gypsies. Lords and ladies. A king and queen and a couple of jousting knights. Sellers of healing herbs. Pitchers of potions for energy, confidence, sleep or love.

They were out and about last week as students at Gulf High School embarked upon a trek back in time at the third annual Renaissance Fair.

The event on the front lawn of the campus was a fundraiser and a research project for about 75 sophomores enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, said Claudia Alwood, who teaches Advanced Placement history at the school.

Sure, students got to dress up and spend a whimsical day under the shade of the towering oaks, pitching their wares. But they knew they had better be able to teach a little something, too.

"They get a test grade for this," Alwood said. "They should be able to give you a little history. They should be able to tell you who they are."

For instance, said Alwood, dropping a little historical trivia, "Knights during the Renaissance were for show rather than warriors."

Sasha Casatelli, 16, was more than willing to share her knowledge about the cone-shaped "steeple hats" she was selling.

"These were worn around 1595," she said. "They were mandatory head wear for the lower class."

"It's good. I've won more than I've lost," said Christian Keyes, 16, who as chess master, offered fairgoers the opportunity to challenge him in a game for a wager of 50 cents.

At times it seemed that the modern world clashed with the past.

Natalie Smith, 15, and Lauren Kanapa, 14, who took on the roles of ancient herbalists, snacked on slices of pizza while pitching bowls of fresh herbs - thyme, dill, tarragon, rosemary, basil - for sale.

"These are for healing diseases," Natalie said. "You used these if you had a cough or to protect you from witchery."

Katie Raponi, 17, spent her time under a shaded tent selling henna tattoos for 50 cents apiece.

"I'm doing a lot of peace signs and some of these, too," she said pointing to a paper covered with astrological sign patterns.

Money raised from the festival will help pay for a hearty breakfast in May for students taking Advanced Placement tests.

Three hours into the fair the "potions" tent had already raised about $60 selling cups of multi-colored Kool-Aid to Gulf students and faculty.

"I think it's really cool because it allows everyone to learn about the Renaissance," said potion-seller Ben Fresby, 15.

"And it's hands-on," said Caitlin Ramiriz, 15. "So it's not boring."