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Maryland Renaissance Festival - A Must-See
Introduction to the 2nd Largest Renaissance Fair in the United States
The year seems to be sometime in the 1500s in Revel Grove as King Henry VIII with his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, make their annual appearance. Revel Grove is a 25 acre village, located on 130 acres of beautiful land in Crownsville, Maryland. Sounds of merriment and celebration waft over the land on the summer breeze. This is the year that the King has become attentive to fair Lady Mary Boleyn as the residents of Revel Grove celebrate her recent marriage to Sir William Carey. Queen Katherine also becomes increasingly attentive to the things around her. Excitement is in the air.
I had imagined that Maryland's Renaissance Festival (RenFest) would be a fun event to experience. It was definitely close to the top of my to-do list. Though my ears perked as advertisements ran every year, it took me several years after moving to the area to get myself to the festival. Which is crazy since the festival is open every weekend for nine weeks. Clearly, I am a procrastinator. Now that I've attended, I know that I will return this year. I highly recommend that you have this experience also.
Huzzah! And welcome to my bit of the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
Image Credit: Unless otherwise noted, these photographs are my personal photographs from my travels. Images are Dawn Rae - All Rights Reserved.
The RenFest Phenomenon:
A bit of general history and information.
A Renaissance Festival, or Faire, is an outdoor festival that is open to the public and is focused on portraying a particular era in history.
It is primarily a popular event in the United States. It is thought to have been a result of an increased interest in the medieval cultures following WWII. As this interest increased, the festivals began in the 1960s. It seems that beginning in the 1980s, renaissance fairs have begun in other countries.
A reported 300,00 RenFest visitors flock to Maryland for the experience as well as the entertainment, food, and souvenirs each year. Even with so many visitors at the Maryland RenFest, I did not feel a bit crowded. With the 40+ food booths, 130 craft shops, 8 stages, and jousting arena, I felt as there was plenty of room to roam without that overwhelming sardine-in-a-can feeling. I’m sure that it helped that I am a morning person and I attended early, but it still seems as though the crowds during heavily visited days would have room to move.
Are you concerned that you don't live near Maryland? Are you unable to travel long distances? Never fear. There are many Renaissance or similar festivals in the United States. Visit the Renfaire website listed below to find a festival near you.
Some Movies to Set the Mood
The first time I went to RenFest, was a result of last minute change of plans and limited time. The next time I go, I will prepare by watching some period movies before I go. These two movies will definitely be movies that I see before I go.
These movies are favorites of mine. If you haven't seen them, and you are interested in this period, you need to watch these.
A fantastic version of the Cinderella story; two young and independent people trying to find their place in life and they end up finding each other.
Jousting, comedy, beautiful people, beautiful scenery and costumes.
What to Wear:
Everyday casual clothes are fine, but here are some tips in case you want to dress for the occasion.
Most festival visitors wear their normal summertime wear. You will not feel out of place at all if you dress in your regular clothing. Many people prefer to increase the festive experience by dressing for the era.
There is a costume rental booth at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. However, as I was getting out of my Jeep and walking across the parking fields to the front gate, I was keenly aware that many, many visitors choose to come in costume.
Many of the visitors dress to fit a certain population in that era. Some festivals remain closer to the authentic era costumes and while other festivals branch out into fantasy costumes (i.e Faery and Centaur). Farther out fantasy costumes such as a Star Wars character and Little Bo Peep have been spotted at these festivals.
At the Maryland Renfest, I observed only era costumes (serving wenches, court jesters, Ladies, Lords, and pirates) with an occasional Faery thrown in. However, I was only present part of a day.
While researching festival costumes, in an attempt to share photos with you dear reader, I find that the regular festival-goers are not specific about what type of costume you attempt to recreate but are more concerned that you are aware of certain flaws. These flaws include things such as pulling your corset up to the point of cleavage desperation, wearing tennis shoes with an otherwise authentic costume, and not leaving the modern accessories such as wrist watches at home.
What Would You Wear? - If you attended a Renaissance Festival, would you wear a costume?
Costume or not?
Purchasing a Costume Online
In case you don't relish the thought of a rented costume and you don't feel as though you have the creative touch to put your own together, remember that you can purchase a costume from Amazon. Click the "buy" link in order to read more about the costume or to begin a search for a different costume. Happy browsing!
This is my favorite. Please note that a reviewer added that it appears to fit well on shorter gals.
A costume for the male Renaissance Fair visitor.
Over 140 reviews and a 4.5 star rating.
Some of the exhibitors truly are barely balanced.
There are a large variety of acts, shows, and events to choose from. The entertainment occurs both on stages at scheduled times and as wandering acts. I was fortunate enough to make the decision to sit and watch Barely Balanced’s entire show.
Barely Balanced is a balancing, juggling, acrobatic, comedy show. Even though those four words are prefect descriptors for what they do, it doesn’t seem as though I am doing them justice. While they are appropriate for young audiences, their discreet innuendos and bawdy humor makes adults chuckle. The only problem I had with their show was that it ended all too quickly.
In addition to acts like the one I saw, there is singing, instrumental, dance, and theatrical talent. There are no additional tickets to buy or seating to reserve in order to see these acts. Pay attention to the locations of the multiple stages, have a look at the festival printed schedule of events, and have a seat on the benches in time to see the show.
Unfortunately, I missed the jousting events. That will not happen in the future.
Food Court: - Smoked turkey legs and more! I will let TerraVox's photos show you the RenFest food choices.Click thumbnail to view full-size
A bit of heaven for blown glass fans.
There are many crafts at RenFest; both demonstrations and sales. The exhibitors are mainly focused on replicating 16th century artisans. By far, my favorite was the glass blowing stand. Throughout the day, demonstrations were given on how they blow glass. I was mesmerized, even though I’ve seen glass blowing in a different setting. Perhaps it was the open air setting and the costuming that made this glass blowing seem more interesting.
The glass blower’s stand, a small but permanent stick-built hut, held shelf upon shelf of these vases, cups, and ornaments.
As you wander the festival, you will find many delightful, handmade trinkets to purchase. I truly wanted to purchase one of each.
2014 Dates and Location:
August 23, 24, 30, 31
September 1, 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
October 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19
10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Rain or shine
1821 Crownsville Rd, Annapolis, MD 21401
For more information call: (410) 266-7304 or 1-800-296-7304
Note: While RenFest has been held at this location since 1985, there are articles in the local newspapers stating that there is serious movement toward relocating the site after 2014. The festival has outgrown the 130 acre festival site. I recommend that you check the websites for the current location before planning your trip.
Additional Information: - Links for Renaissance Festivals in Maryland or near you.
A list of Festivals and Faires throughout the United States. A wonderful resource to ensure you don't miss a thing!
- Maryland Renaissance Festival
The official site for the Maryland RenFest. Find information you need for our Festival here.
- Flickr Photo Gallery by VOXEFX Photography: TerraVox
Additional RenFest photographs from an AMAZING local photographer. This site is definitely worth an extra click for a visual feast.
Books and Movies of Interest:
You may find these books and movies of interest before attending a Renaissance Festival.
A portrayal of daily life during the life and times of King Henry VIII. A four-star rating.
Love letters from a King to a woman, prior to her beheading of course.
Reviewers refer to this books as slightly "academic" but never "dull". A history of how Renaissance Faires came to be.
A four-star National Geographic documentary about the ruthless and scandalous side of King Henry VIII
a 5-star BBC mini series about the life of Queen Elizabeth I
I would love to hear your comments about these festivals and your experiences.