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Nile Garden: Its simply medieval
Proud grandma Esther Gonzales wears a big smile as she stands behind granddaughter Riley wearing a handmade costume during the annual Medieval Faire. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
It’s not exactly like the world famous Medieval Times that has put the Southern California city of Buena Park on the map.

But Nile Garden School’s annual Medieval Faire is even better than that for a number of good reasons. There’s no pricey admission at the door. The costumes are, for the most part, hand-made by the participants themselves who also have a hand in researching their authenticity. Ditto with the elaborate and colorful backdrops which the participants this year painted with their own hands. But perhaps even more important is that while the participants – in this case Junior High teacher Tim Lewis’s seventh-grade World History students – get to enjoy themselves to the hilt, they also earn points for their grades.

Every year for the last 17 years that Lewis, a.ka. King Lewis The Wise, has been subjecting (all pun intended) his seventh and eighth graders to this outdoor lesson near the end of the school year, the presentation has grown with new entertainment features and decors introduced. These don’t get into the day’s program simply for the attraction factor, though. Everything is all part of the “living history lesson,” as Lewis put it. The Parade of the Manors, the long-table al fresco feast with the menu featuring mainly fried chicken, and the entertainment performed during the feast are all selected and prepared to be as close to how things were in Medieval Times. These include the jousting with the actors using sticks in place of the real thing, dancing, singing, juggling, and even dramatizations of the plague and the trial of a suspected witch.

During the witch trial, a group of eighth graders brought before King Lewis The Wise a person who is suspected of being a witch. “Why do you say she’s a witch?” the king asked the accusers. “Because she looks like one!” cried someone in the crowd.

While it is a festival complete with costumes and various entertainments, Ye Olde Nile Garden’s annual Medieval Faire is not for general consumption. Invited to come and join in the merriment though are the students’ grandparents, parents, and other family members.

Lewis, who was recently honored as a Manteca Unified Teacher of the Year, pointed out that the success of the Medieval Faire year after year is a “combination of a lot of people doing a lot of things.” For one thing, he said that he is convinced he can’t do it “anywhere else than at Nile Garden” because of the “cooperation of a lot of people” that make it happen. They include members of the school staff who have always proven themselves to be so “wonderful” even though they don’t have to do anything to help run the faire. He also thanked the Nile Garden Community Club which supports the faire monetarily.

“They do it without question even when I’m buying odd-sounding things,” Lewis said with a smile.

He also acknowledged the contribution of one parent, Bridgitte Gee, who went far and beyond what she was supposed to do. In addition to making her daughter’s costume for the event, Lewis said Gee volunteered to make dresses or gowns for 14 other students.