Casey’s Cottage is an unassuming wooden house, nestled on the grounds of Mexico Point Park, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Once the carriage house to a larger home on the property and a destination for alcohol smuggled from Canada during Prohibition, Casey’s Cottage is now used for weddings and other social functions. The interior is elaborately carved with medieval figures, and the exposed rafter beams are covered with weird writings: some Latin, some Old English, some a made-up language. The tiny second floor holds two levels of darkened bunk beds and a miniature chapel. The whole building is romantic and endearing to a fault.
The best event at Casey’s Cottage is held for three days every August. Guests are invited to take a trip back in time, and to experience a full Renaissance dinner, complete with food, music, and entertainment. Upon their arrival, guests are instructed to park their “steeds” by a footman, and make their way to the front lawn, where they are greeted by Omen Sade and Nik Magill, two young actors performing as the Feckless Momes. The two young men tumble, tell jokes, sing, dance (if you can call it that), spit water at each other, and even dabble in Commedia dell’Arte techniques to amuse the crowd. Audience participation is random and mandatory if you are lucky enough to be singled out in the crowd.
The Feckless Momes: Nik Magill and Omen Sade.
At the finale of the Feckless Momes show, guests make their way into the Cottage, and are announced at the door as, for example, “Sir John of Smith and Lady Jane of Doe.” Serving wenches lead guests to their seats. The Queen enters last, in full regalia, and welcomes the diners. Another introduction and welcome are given by the Cottage staff, and a third by the voice of Sir William Casey himself, booming from the rafters as if by magic.
Dinner is brought out in small dishes by serving wenches, all students at the local high school. The far-and-away best of the dishes are the Dragon’s Eyeballs, juicy meatballs marinated in a dark, sweet glaze. Guinevere’s Gams (chicken legs), Merlin’s Orbs (baked potatoes) and Lancelot’s Spears (wraps of cheese, asparagus and various deli meats) are also perennial favorites. The menu changes slightly from evening to evening and year to year: one night hard-boiled eggs are served, the next a deep-fried wonton, the next a variation on spanakopita, each with an appropriately fanciful name. Super-sweet boxed wine, beer and water are poured generously.
Just as the food is variable from year to year, so is the entertainment. The Feckless Momes frolic and generally harass guests throughout dinner, to the great delight of the crowd (particularly the women.) Harp and recorder music are played in the background throughout the night, with interruptions for several singing performances by Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne. (Full disclosure: that’s me. My mother is one of the harp players.) Performances are often impromptu: this year, the Feckless Momes did an on-the-spot duet with the harpists on “The Butterfly,” featuring a kazoo and a pan banged over Nik’s head.
Singers: Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne.
The best part of the evening is the very end, when Omen rises to tell the story of the Cottage and how it came to be what it is today. The evening closes with a performance of Puck’s closing monologue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and a fond farewell from the staff, until next year.
Mexico Point is by no means a professional endeavor, nor is it the end-all, be-all of Renaissance recreations. In fact, Casey’s Cottage almost grins at the idea of a true Renaissance reenactment, with its nonsensical wall carvings and medley of finger foods. Be that as it may, the Cottage is a happy, jovial place for friends and strangers to come together, share a night of fantasy and entertainment, and enjoy one another’s company. The common bonds of the human spirit at the dinner never fails to touch me, year after year. For those looking for whimsy, magic and a jaunt outside Syracuse to find new culture, Casey’s Cottage is a beautiful place to do so.