Time travel to the 16th Century at Ren Fest
North Bureau Chief
Kings, princesses, jesters and courtesans wearing elaborate costumes push by you in the crowd. A knight walks by munching a gigantic turkey leg. The sounds of cannon fire and horses can be vaguely heard in the distance.
You are not a visitor to the 16th century, but to South Florida’s 27th annual Renaissance Festival.
Every Saturday and Sunday from Feb. 9 through March 24, visitors can witness jousting matches, sword fights, comedy and improv acts and much more at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach.
Each weekend is themed, from Game of Thrones adventures to Harry Potter, pirate, Celtic or Viking celebrations. There is truly something here to scratch the itch for every fantasy nerd.
Twelve stages are spaced generously around the event, with different free shows being performed at different times in the day.
The highlight shows of the festival, however, were the jousting and live sword fighting.
History of Chivalry puts on shows throughout the day featuring live sword fighting and medieval combat with real weapons and armor pieces. The lords and ladies of this troupe fight with ferocity, delivering bone-crunching hits to their opponents while the crowd roars in approval.
Far from being showy “play fighting,” members of History of Chivalry strive to make the show authentic. When the actors took off their helmets at the end of the show, some of them had visible bumps and abrasions from being struck in the head with a sword or axe.
Jousting was also a crowd pleaser, with five different riders, all with their own backstory, jousting on mighty steeds while a fictional king and queen looked on. Unlike the sword fighting earlier in the day, the jousting was more heavily scripted, with the fictional king looking for a new “champion” to crown. Still, the riders displayed great skill on their mounts and the performance was energetic.
Another highlight show was a bombastic man in 16th century dress who performed Romeo & Juliet with a twist: he would play every character in the play. The show was odd and hilarious, and crowd participation was encouraged, with one section of the crowd being Montagues and the other Capulets, jeering or cheering certain events in the show.
One can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of distractions and things to do in this sliver of Quiet Waters Park. Hundreds of booths line the walkways hawking their wares, from swords and necklaces to full-fledged suits of armor. There are zipline rides, games of chance, a petting zoo and a tent where visitors can sample various meads.
Unlike most carnival attractions, visitors have a litany of options for a tasty meal at South Florida Renaissance Festival. Some stands served homemade Italian dishes; others had fajitas, Jamaican cuisine,or burritos. And, of course, the ever-popular giants turkey legs. This is not a festival where you will be forced to eat lukewarm hot dogs and French fries.
Florida Renaissance Festival makes for a great date night or trip with the kids, but it can be pricey depending on what one wants out of the experience. Adult tickets are $21 each; children’s tickets are $9 for a single day. Kids under 6 get in for free. The best shows are free, including sword fighting and jousting.
Visitors should carry cash on hand, as most booths do not accept credit card payments. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office. Parking is free but there is a $1.50 park entrance fee.
For a detailed schedule of events, shows and theme weekends, visit http://www.ren-fest.com/