What’s a girl to do? She lives in the desert and dreams of the forest. She’s stuck in the present and longs for the past. For some reason she’s got a cell phone in her pocket and all she wants is a kerchief and some colorful thread.
Kathryn Foster is wearing a brown T-shirt. It says, “Forget shining armor: I’m loving my hero in ABUs.” An ABU is an Airman Battle Uniform. Foster is 19 and has a boyfriend stationed at Nellis. With all due respect to him, we have some bad news: She really hasn’t gotten over the shining-armor thing.
If you stop by Sunset Park on Oct. 8-10, maybe hoping for a quiet walk around the lake or a good remote-control boat race, what you’ll get instead is the crack of clashing rattan swords and the smell of roasting … whatever. Those folks liked their meat in the ninth century. You’ll have stumbled into the Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival, and there you’ll find Foster, a lady-in-waiting, putting stitches in a garment or one more row of yarn on the navy blue sweater she’s been toiling over. She used to don the armor herself, but she retired when she realized that she screamed when hit.
Foster is a member of the Empire of Chivalry and Steel, an organization devoted to keeping the arts and culture of the Medieval Era alive. At Sunset Park, Foster’s beloved Middle Ages will collide with everything from Roman centurions to strutting pirates with cornball accents. But she doesn’t mind. “It doesn’t make sense,” she says. “Why the Roman Empire and pirates? But I won’t lie: Pirates are fun people.”
Foster doesn’t like “period Nazis” anyway; why harness yourself to a single time and place when it’s possible to imagine your way into all times and all places at once? For a girl who can’t seem to get out of Vegas, it helps to have a cultural life that takes her from darning knightly socks to performing at the occasional Rocky Horror Picture Show. “I’ve always been an anywhere-but-here girl,” she says. “Around 8 or 9 I started looking for boarding schools for my mother to send me to.” Before graduating from Silverado High School, she put out applications to colleges in Italy. Alas, the logic of comparative pricing landed Foster at UNLV, where she has a triple major in anthropology, political science and German.
She’s done a good job turning Las Vegas into her very own global village. But her escape is almost at hand: Next year, she’ll be studying in Lüneburg, Germany.
“How will I come back?” she wonders. “Maybe they’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming onto the plane.
“Or maybe I’ll really miss Vegas.”