Prepare Thyself for Merriment

Prepare Thyself for Merriment

I have been regularly attending the Maryland Renaissance Festival since 1987.  I have, at various stages in my life, danced in Revel Grove, cheered at the joust, peeked under a Scotsman’s kilt (yes, really), wished I could travel back in time,  sang bawdy songs, sampled the mead, and renewed my wedding vows.

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I’ve seen it grow from a small festival then into one of the biggest in the country now.  And I have consistently enjoyed myself every time I have gone.  Well, not so much that year that my daughter was a baby and I had to deal with stroller and diaper changes and feeding.  So… except for that one year, it’s been awesome every time.

Tickets range from $19-24 for individuals age 16-61 (less if you are 7-15 or 62+), and there is free parking included. Children under 6 are free. With all of the great entertainment included in the price of admission, I think it’s a real bargain.  In addition to the joust, there is plenty of court drama unfolding several times throughout the day.  The festival is set in the royal court of King Henry VIII, so there is no lack of scheming individuals with ulterior motives.

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The story line is a continuous one — each royal appearance builds upon the events in the previous one.  I like to catch the first appearance and then follow along throughout the day.  There are a couple of acts that I like to see every time we go.  They are fairly predictable, but absolutely brilliant every time.  The first is Johnny Fox, sword swallower:

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The other is Puke & Snot:

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Now, in addition to all the fine entertainment at the Festival, there is plenty of great food and drink for sale.  My favorites include the Fried Cheese with Marinara Sauce, raspberry mead (available only at the winegarten), and on a rainy or chilly day, soup in a bread bowl.

And there is shopping too!  Tasty things you can take home, like honey from The Bee Folks, and beautiful handcrafted items like blown glass from The Art of Fire.  If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see the glassblowers at work:

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So I highly encourage you to check out the Maryland Renaissance Festival if you haven’t before.  Here are some extra tips to make the most of your visit.

  • Go early, and get there before the gates open if possible.  There are a couple of different reasons for this.  One is that it is less crowded when the festival first opens. Another is that there is a brief opening ceremony just before the gates open that will set the stage for the story line as it progresses throughout the day.  Finally, there will be costumed characters mingling among the crowd before the gates open, and this may be your best chance for an encounter with one of them.
  • Scan the program as soon as you arrive.  Determine what shows you want to see and at least loosely plan your day around that.  There is nothing worse than being excited to see an act, only to realize that there is just one performance that day and you have already missed it.
  • Consider going when the weather is at its worst.  I have always enjoyed the Festival more when it is cold or rainy, because it is less crowded and the actors interact more with the people.
  • Do not expect to see everything in one day.  When I first started going to the Festival, it was possible to do this, but not any more.  It is just too big.  Make sure you hit the must-see attractions, or buy a two-day pass and spend the whole weekend visiting.
  • Do not bring any beverages with you into the Festival.  They will make you dump them out.
  • If you wear garb (Renaissance era costumes), leave the weapons at home.  If you want to wear garb but don’t have any, you can rent a costume on site (or buy your own from one of the many fine vendors there).
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  You will be doing a lot of walking, and quite a bit of it is up/down hill.
  • Bring some hand sanitizer.  The port-a-johns usually have some for patrons to use, but you don’t really want to run the risk of getting there after it’s run out and the container hasn’t been refilled yet, do you?
  • Stay until the end and attend the final Pub Sing at the White Hart Tavern.  I know this makes for a really long day if you got there before gate opening time, but the pub sign is a tradition and it has always been my favorite part.  There is just something special about standing in a tavern, singing with a group of strangers, and watching the sun go down after a day of fun.  It’s the perfect way to end your RenFest adventure.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival typically runs from late August through mid-October, 10:00 to 7:00 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day Monday.  The festival grounds are located at 1821 Crownsville Rd, Annapolis, MD 21401.  Telephone  1-800-296-7304

 

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