Maryland Renaissance Festival is full of merriment

Oct. 14, 2003, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 17 years, 3 months ago

Oktober Fest of october 4 and 5 enjoys large crowds

Maryland's 27th annual Renaissance Festival has enjoyed a large crowd nearly every weekend since its opening weekend on August 23. Exhibiting beautiful scenery, authentically clothed actors, 42 food outlets, shows, magic, singing, crafts, and jousting, the festival's entrance sign "Prepare Thyself for Merriment," could not have been a more accurate statement for the entertainment on October 5.

After shelling out $16 dollars (a little pricey) for an adult ticket (or if you're 7-15 years old, the price $7), the first visible attraction is the costume rental shop, which outfits you in medieval garb starting at around $25.

Directly adjacent to Ye Olde Costume Shoppe is the Gatehouse Stage, running several comedic acts including Punch and Judy and Teatro's Italian Wedding. Columbina and Lelio, the lead performers in Teatro's Italian Wedding, pull members of the crowd on to the stage to assist in a "real Italian wedding."

The Renaissance Festival presents singing and dancing shows on six stages besides the Gatehouse Stage. The Globe Theater's actors perform modernized and shortened versions of Shakespeare's most famous plays, including The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth in 20 minutes or less, Shakespeare's Skum: Tag Team Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare's Skum: Leave it to Hamlet. The Lyric Stage exhibits magic as well as "wordless comedy" by A Fool Named "O."

The legendary Johnny Fox is a favorite on the Royal Stage and has swallowed swords for the Renaissance Festival for over 20 seasons. Unfortunately, the show is the same every year and is not worth seeing more than once unless you can stomach this daunting task. Hack and Slash, two comedic sword fighters, also perform on the Royal Stage. Both shows are 45 minutes long.

Mud fighting at the Jury Rig Stage is a riot. Three "peasants" run the show with the help of some audience participation (mostly sound effects). Two entertaining young fellows livened up the crowd with some horsing around in the sandbox-sized mud pit. Only after lifting several handfuls of dung-colored muck into the stands did they warn the audience that sitting in the front was a mistake if you were wearing a white shirt. One furious audience member ran from the audience into the pit and began pelting the actors with mud balls, creating a wonderful diversion from the skit Bay wolf in the Mud. The parody ended happily, with all three actors plunging face first into the pit.

In between shows, you can to stop at one of the many craft shops that line the roadways. The tiny stores sell not only the predictable over-priced Renaissance era clothing, but also unique artwork and sculpture made by local artists. Top places for window-shopping are The Bee Folks, displaying beeswax wares; Under the Glass, showing off stained glass with pressed flowers; and Blessed Scents, a medieval Bath and Body Works, filled with the pungent smell of incense. Henna, hair braiding, and face painting services are also offered at small booths along the paths.

Before leaving the festival, you need to see a jousting tournament, even though they have declined in quality in the last few years. Jousting is the official sport of Maryland, and the Maryland Renaissance Festival is one of the only opportunities to see such a performance. Unfortunately on this day at the Queen's Joust only one of the four Free Lance jousters put his lance through all three rings while riding at a canter towards them. Sir Robert missed every ring. In individual combat, no riders were knocked from their horses, only two or three lances broke, and the knights could not even make up for lack of talent with handsome appearances.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival, an excellent choice for a weekend activity, is great for families and groups of friends. Choose shows for young kids carefully- some are rated PG for body (or bawdy!) humor. As one of the 100 best events in North America according to the American Bus Association the Maryland Renaissance Festival has an almost 100 percent promise-to-return rate, and a reputation for merriment, authenticity, and high quality performances.

For ticket prices, dates, and directions go to

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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