- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

In a shady grove in Crownsville, Md., King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, are presiding over a festival of fun, food and entertainment. Tudor houses and shops adjoin the castles and jousting fields of old England at the 24th annual Maryland Renaissance Festival, and all gentlefolk are welcome.
In Revel Grove, historical personages, glad to discuss their lives and current circumstances, greet guests. Even the king and queen, who host many of the events, interact with the visitors. A story line guides you through the day: The rumor is that Anne Boleyn is attracting the king's attentions, unappreciated by the queen, and there are wrangles among town politicians and within the church hierarchy.
But, like most townspeople in 1527, the year this festival celebrates, you might be more interested in the food and entertainment, both of which are plentiful. Performances of juggling, sword swallowing, drama, comedy and feats of daring take place continually on the village's 10 stages. Several performances are geared toward children, including an interactive play and a sing-along.
Other performances are aimed at adult audiences, although the skillful entertainers make things child-friendly. Several shows are labeled "PG" because of suggestive content, so parents should make note of those before deciding what to visit.
The festival has a little bit of everything. Seafaring admirals greet minstrel monks, armor-clad knights vie on the jousting fields, troubadours pluck their dulcimer or harp strings, and two bishops challenge each other in a human chess game.
A host of shops contains unusual items to browse or purchase. At many of these, you can see artisans crafting their wares we enjoyed a demonstration of glass blowing. In another area, a blacksmith displayed his craft.
Young visitors might enjoy riding an elephant or the more prosaic ponies, trying their luck at archery or darts, or navigating a maze. Special play areas are available for younger children, and a huge twisting slide attracts all ages.
Our family's favorite was the free juggling lessons. We spent 45 minutes tossing and missing tennis balls before we finally started to get the hang of it. We had so much fun and got a lot of unplanned exercise chasing the balls.
The king and queen knight children at an 11:30 a.m. ceremony at the Royal Pavilion, and youngsters learn the manners and proper greetings of the nobility. At the jousting tournament, they will learn the proper method of cheering.
"What does 'huzzah' mean anyway?" my children asked. We never did find out.
Since many children's activities begin early, it is wise to arrive early by 10:45 a.m. or so. To make the day even more enjoyable, you can rent a costume there for as little as $10, or make your own and wear it through the day. Many of the visitors dressed in Renaissance garb, or at least something approximating it.
Plenty of food and drink vendors sell everything from roasted turkey drumsticks to "steak on a stake." Ethnic and specialty foods are available, too gyros, popovers, cheesecake on a stick and Belgian waffles. Inns and other vendors sell beer, hard cider and other adult beverages.
You won't have to pack a lunch, but do bring comfortable shoes and a shady hat for the jousting tournaments.
The festival is a great value and a place that adults and children will enjoy, a place where big people and small can enter a world of imaginative play, a world of dress-up and sword fights, of dragons and castles. So, take a break from the grown-up world in favor of a little creative revelry.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide