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A day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Here is what the medieval fair has to offer.
Image by Maddy Fox
Jody McGuire poses outside of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival with her dog Chewy on Sept. 17, 2016. McGuire donned an elf costume while Chewy was dressed as a pirate for the fair’s pet costume contest.

The sun was shining, the air was warm and the jousters were jousting last weekend at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. The event faithfully recreates the grandeur of a 16th century European village through its design, scenery and in-character staff.

The festival, which is currently in its 52nd year, began its yearly gala in Shakopee, Minnesota on Aug. 19. With over 700 entertainers, 120 food booths and over 300,000 in attendance annually, it is one of the biggest festivals in Minnesota and one of the biggest Renaissance festivals in the United States.

The first thing I did after stepping inside was buy a turkey leg, a tried and true classic from the fair. The person who sold it to me stayed in character the entire time, even giving me his stage name, “Skippy,” when asked who to cite for the article.

“It’s a magical time and place full of knights, jesters and fair maidens,” Skippy said. “I am always in eager anticipation of the festivities. It is my favorite part of the year.”

The turkey leg was eaten while watching the show “Washing Well Wenches,” an act featuring two “wenches” who chose targets from the audience to ridicule and dump laundry water on. Fortunately, I was not a victim and was able to eat my turkey leg in peace.

Afterward, I tried “mead,” a drink made from fermenting honey and water. Mine was hibiscus-flavored and had a similar taste to cough syrup, but my girlfriend’s lemon-flavored mead was a lot more palatable.

The mead was sipped on while watching a joust. The jousters were donned in full knight gear as they rode their horses towards each other. Using giant jousting sticks, their goal was to knock each other off of their horses.

“Me and my kids find this place great. It’s very cool how determined they are to put on such an authentic experience. Where else am I going to be able to watch a joust?” fair-goer Mark Overberg said.

After the joust, in an ivy-covered stone tavern called Mac’s Pub, was a show by The Dregs, a six-piece band that played Irish ballads with wonderful harmonies. Everyone in the pub seemed to already be a fan of The Dregs, often singing along with their songs.

Next was a wine tasting hosted by Pirate Pete, a man who looked as if he spent the last 60 years weary from the sea and was now there to tell the audience all about the intricate flavors of the fair’s sponsored wine. After this, I rode an elephant at the elephant riding stand.

One of the booths featured a man who would insult you as you threw water balloons at him. I did not hit him once, which the man said was because I “stay inside and play League of Legends all the time.” I have never played League of Legends in my life.

A fencing competition was also offered, in which participants would aim to pop balloons tied to either side of their opponent’s helmet. I competed against my girlfriend, and after a valiant effort on both our ends, she won the clash.

“Working here is a joy. There are so many people that join in on the affair that it feels very communal, like one big family,” fencing instructor Annie Hanson said.

The night was capped with a wax hand mold. Ideally, the ice water would be cold enough to numb the hand, allowing it to sit in hot wax long enough to create a mold. However, the ice was not cold enough, which left my hand scalding as it sat in the wax. After multiple attempts of sticking my hand in boiling wax, I realized my efforts were futile and went home.

Overall, the experience at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival was very enjoyable. It had a lot more to offer than the Minnesota State Fair, as there were regular events to watch and participate in. The medieval component elevates the experience, creating a timeless effect. I would recommend the festival to anyone, and be sure to check out the Oktoberfest Weekend from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

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