Thursday, March 8, 2012

Impressions of the Florida Renaissance Festival

Mimi the Mermaid
Why am I writing about the Florida Renaissance Festival twice this year?  My last posting hit a half a thousand views, my Flickr photos are getting 500+ views a day, and I’ve attended four and a half times with one weekend yet to go. World shattering records for my blog and myself.  With this kind of interest, I thought I would take a deeper look.

When asked what my attraction is to this event, my quick and easy answer is the people. Not only the performers but the costumed characters, the vendors, and the fans. This year I made a real effort to do more than gawk and shoot photos. Now several performers know my name. I've met a couple of fellow photographers in person who’s work I’ve admired for years. I’ve hung out with some awesome performers and their over the top fans. I've learned to eat fire. I don’t really recommend that last one. Not that anyone besides me has fire eating on their top 100 list.

So what does this little faire have to offer? I attended four full days before I saw every act (so I thought) and each time was a truly unique experience. There is something for everyone who enjoys live entertainment.
Celtic Mayhem

The Harper & the Minstrel
Iron Hill Vagabonds
Music is everywhere. If you look hard enough and listen close enough you will find some of the most beautiful, hand made music on earth. The Glass Harp which is singing water bowls or a harpist by the water for those who like their music quiet. The juxtaposition of cannon fire in the background may upset the purists but there is no shortage of CDs for sale so you can take it with you and listen in the cocoon of your car on the way home.

 Somewhere in the middle are the loud and bawdy bands belting out anything from Irish drinking songs to comedy and pirate tunes.
Cast in Bronze

If you would rather feel your music more than hear it, stand in the front row at the Cast in Bronze performance and get your bones rattled and fillings loosened. This has to be the most unique musical instrument I've ever seen. All four tons of it. It takes quite an athlete to play this collection of church bells on a truck bed but he never misses a beat.

Masala Gypsy Dancer
Irish Step Dance
How about dance. Plenty of that. No matter how many times I visit, the Irish Step Dancers and Masala Gypsy Dancers dance their hearts out for the audience. I'm constantly amazed by the attendance these performers draw. They can't all be parents and relatives like when I watched my daughter's shows way back when. Every time I attend there are large and enthusiastic audiences. I think that speaks to the type of visitors the Ren Fest attracts as much as to the quality of the acts.

What would a Renaissance Festival be without the knights? These guys take quite a pounding every weekend for our entertainment. I don't care how scripted the show may appear. You fall off a galloping horse in full armour and it's going to hurt somewhere between limp and 911. I've been going to Renaissance festivals for 15 years and I've only seen one real injury but I'm sure these guys put their career and health on the line every time they suit up. The audience knows it too and the Field of Dreams is always the Field of Loudest Cheers.

Washer Woman

Commedia Del Sol

I Want My Mommy!
My favorite - the comedy. I don't really think there are enough opportunities to laugh in this life. TV just does not have the same effect on me as live comedy. I've seen the same acts plenty of times over the years so are they still funny? Oh Hell Yeah! This is a live show with a volatile audience and performers who might just change the act in mid stream if it suits them. Then there's the classic jokes I just can't get enough of and look forward to hearing time and time again. One thing every act has in common is audience participation. That means they grab someone from the audience and toss them on stage. Every once in a while someone goes crying for their Mommy. Ninety-nine percent of the time the uncanny skill of the performer to pick the perfect victim enhances the enjoyment of the audience and in the end makes a hero out of the chosen one. Something they will remember fondly for a long time and possibly re-live through the photos of their friends who were thanking their gods they were not picked. This year the Mud Show is back. A show where there is a good chance you will be sprayed with mud in the first twenty rows. This is the only show I sit in the back row with my long lens. Not so much to protect my camera as people fight for those front row seats. Now that's what I call audience participation.

Mud Show - Splattertime Players

Jana Lee and Adam Lowe
What's left? Acrobats, RenFairies, beautiful woman, games of skill, and turkey legs. You can't see everything all in one day, that's for sure. I was looking at some of my new friend's photos and found a couple of acts hiding in the woods that I missed. Good thing there is one last weekend.

At the end of the day, when the closing cannon blasts letting everyone know it's time to leave, there is no mad rush to play bumper cars on the way out. Five times with oodles of people leaving at once, the very first driver I came upon waived me onto the road. I, in turn, did the same all the way to the exit. Merging into traffic leaving a concert or ball game in Miami is more of a Gladiator sport. The folks who attend the Ren Fest this year have braved the elements, the cold, the wind, the rain, and blazing sun for a full day and still are polite enough to drive with courtesy. Like I said at the beginning, the best part of this event for me is the people.


Beauty 1

Beauty 2

Beauty 3 (on the inside)


  1. I'm SO jealous - I've not seen anything quite like this downunder, although I'm sure it must exist somewhere!!

    AND ... I hope you remember all your modest little blog buddies now that you're famous ...

  2. @Red - I may even pick up some fans in the US.

  3. Funny pictures, I like the mermaid, the Irish dancers and off cours the beauties.


  4. Yarn Vikings, here! How do we find you on facebook?

  5. @Yarn Vikings - Had a great time with you Sunday. I'll see if I can get some of the photos posted this week. I'll friend you.

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