Forsooth, the Ohio Renaissance Festival is again upon us!
By Kevin J. Gray
As you walk along the dirt road, you see quaint shops with wooden signs selling handcrafted objects. Two men in full suits of armor are about to mount their steeds and joust, and a guy who looks like Friar Tuck is gnawing on an enormous roasted turkey leg. Are you hanging with the extras on the set of “The Hobbit?” Have you been transported to Hogsmeade? Nope. More likely, you are at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, the annual fall festival held in Harveysburg, Ohio.
The festival, held for eight weekends from Sept. 1-Oct. 21, takes place on a 30-acre permanent village made to look like England, circa 1572. Now in its 23rd year, the festival attracts between 8,000 and 12,000 visitors per year. Cheryl Bucholtz, vice president of marketing for the event, explains the attraction and why she loves the event: “I’ve been here for 12 seasons. It’s so unique and so different. You are not sitting in a movie theater watching the screen; you are not sitting at home in front of the TV playing video games. It is live action interaction, 100 percent, while you are here. You are not going to see this anywhere else.”
Cheryl’s right. What the event offers is truly unique and looks like something out of the movies or a video game. When you walk through the gate, you are transported back more than 400 years to a time before the Internet, before the electricity, even before cars and bikes. Hundreds of shops line the lanes, selling clothing, jewelry, decorative items, books and pottery. Watch bootmakers, blacksmiths and glassblowers create their wares.
The food is also spectacular. Bucholtz recommends arriving hungry so you can taste the authentic-based food offerings. The giant roasted turkey legs are hands down a fan favorite, but there are a lot of other options to choose from, including bread bowls loaded with soups and stews, steak on a stick, fish and chips and Scotch eggs. New this year, the festival is offering macaroni and cheese in a bread bowl and dragon dip and chips. Meads from Valley Vineyards and hearty ales from Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s, as well as more traditional American lagers, are for sale in the pubs, and children of all ages can quench their thirst with fresh apple cider.
But the entertainment is the real draw. As you stroll the lanes, you may encounter more than 100 costumed cast members, dressing the part of 16th century English villagers. The cast members will explain what it is they do in the village, all while keeping in character. Good luck explaining what your smartphone is to these folks.
In addition, there are nearly 100 engaging, live shows daily on eleven stages scattered throughout the village. Highlights include:
-The KamiKaze FireFlies, new this year, who juggle interesting objects, eat fire, juggle fire and try some pretty funny stunts. The best part of the show is the grand finale, where one of the team members, a world-record holder in the event, creates a bologna sandwich made with an interesting utensil (hint: his hands never touch the sandwich).
-Also new this year, swords, rope swings, gunfire and comedy burst from the decks of a 65-foot pirate ship during the Pirate Comedy Stunt Show. How did the ship get dry-docked in central Ohio? Turns out these pirates are terrible navigators. Learn more at the show.
-One of the most popular events every year is the jousting. The Knights of Valour joust in full armor three times daily. And this jousting is real. Nothing staged here, so be prepared for some bone-crunching hits as your favorite knight rides atop his 2,000 pound warhorse.
-Throughout the lanes and filling the pubs, listen for the sounds of the Rogues of Rafferty. These young lads, new this year, perform traditional Irish folk music that will get you dancing or singing along.
-The whole family should check out The Adventures of Robin Hood, where Robin Hood and Maid Marian transform audience members into the stars of tales of yore, with a comedic twist.
-For more audience participation, don’t miss The Da Vinci Bros Comedy Operas. In these hysterical shows, the audience provides the orchestra and the sound effects.
-Feeling dirty? Head to The Mudde Show where cast members perform “Beowulf,” Dante’s “Inferno” and the muddiest show of them all, “The Viking Show,” in the tri-state area’s only Olympic-sized Muditorium.
-Throughout the village pubs, keep an eye out for The Other Woman performing music and comedy. But be warned, this maiden is always searching for her next true love. It just might be you.
-Young lads and lasses will want to see The Swordsmen, who offer sharp rapiers and even sharper wit. Learn the proper way to offer a kiss upon the hand and how to engage in a duel.
Finally, don’t miss the games and rides. Test your skill with a bow and arrow, or chuck tomatoes at a poor, unfortunate soul at Vegetable Vengeance. Kids will like the frog pond. And be sure to ride the rides. Remember, there is no electricity, so all rides are human-powered. See what makes them work.
The Ohio Renaissance Festival runs each Saturday and Sunday through October 21st from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a different theme each weekend. Tickets are $19.99 for adults (13 and over) and $9.99 for kids (aged 5-12), with rides, parking, and concessions extra. Discount tickets are available at all Ohio Kroger stores. Check their website at renfestival.com/ for full details and directions.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin Gray at KevinGray@daytoncitypaper.com