A day fit for a king or commoner
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – A fall classic as anticipated for some as the World Series, college football or the state fair rolled into Huntersville last weekend, when the 18th Annual Carolina Renaissance Festival opened its gates and welcomed tens of thousands of visitors.
Nestled in the woods and covering 22 acres, the fictional village of Fairhaven played host to families and friends from the area and beyond, who meandered their way though an array of fields and forests containing buildings, artisans and vendors reminiscent of a 16th century European village.
“It’s a walk in the past,” said Tom Hulse, who was visiting from New Orleans.
Like many others from out of town, he has friends in the area that told him this festival was one of the largest of its kind, so he donned a cape, put his daughter, Aurora, in her stroller, and hit the dusty lane for the kind of fun they couldn’t find just anywhere.
In fact, half the fun for some visitors is dressing the part, a task made easier at the costume rental shop located within the festival grounds. There, Carolina girls can be transformed in regal ladies, and average-Joes can become lords.
Mingled among the festival’s costumed cast of 300 medieval commoners, knights and royalty, are folks you might sit next to in rush hour traffic or share a cubicle with at your 9-to-5 job, and it’s hard to know who among the royalty is festival staff and who is just a medieval soul trapped in a modern body.
As one wanders the grounds, greetings of “Good day, milady” and “Hello, milord” roll off the tongues of magicians, wenches and jesters, all dressed in the colorful and sometimes provocative pageantry that was commonplace in Medieval times.
Whether in costume or not, there is plenty of old-world fun to be had, as 14 year old Ryan Smith of Greensboro and his family found out.
“Throwing weapons and axes has been my favorite part,” Ryan said, as the sound of clanking metal filled the air.
His parents agreed that it was a good day of family fun, filled with a great collection of interesting and “different characters.”
In between Medieval history, falconry demonstrations, comedy shows and musical interludes, the family filled up on more food than most commoners could probably consume in one afternoon, including fish and chips, artichoke dip, beef jerky and mother Kathie Smith’s favorite – the sweet potato pie.
“The boys have wanted to come for years,” she said, “and now they want to make it a tradition to come back”
And while the fish, the dip, the jerky and the pie are popular with many visitors at this fairytale festival, the biggest food favorite, literally and figuratively, has to be the giant, roasted turkey legs.
Another big hit of the festival was a bit farther down the lane, past the potter and glass blower, in the ancient arena where chivalrous knights in suits of armor mounted their horses and charged with lances in hand and swords at their side.
Here, three times daily, guests witness a re-creation of the Renaissance period’s grandest spectacle, the joust.
Fighting for honor, not to mention the favor of the queen, and ending with the demise of all but one knight, this festival highlight garnered the cheers of nearly 2,000 spectators perched in the stands surrounding the ring.
When it was all said and done, and the last knight was standing, patrons headed back past the pubs and privies (that’s Renaissance lingo for outhouses or Port-A-Johns) towards the gates where their adventures began earlier that day.
After a few parting “good night miladys” and “come back again milords,” the throng of weary commoners made its way out of the village, over the hills, and through the woods in chariots made in Detroit. And many of them went home to watch the Detroit Tigers play the Texas Rangers in a modern day version of the joust – the American League Championship Series.
What a day, what a good day, milord.