By Krista Pfunder
A field in Crownsville usually filled with the sounds of revelry in late summer and early fall remained quiet last year amid the pandemic. But the wooded lot will come alive with festival-goers, vendors and performers once again as the 45th season of the Renaissance Festival begins this weekend.
“The event is almost entirely outdoors and encompasses 27 acres of public space—three times the size of a stadium—with fewer people,” says owner Jules Smith. “It’s much like a town with stores and performing arts venues but almost entirely outdoors.”
A new year and storyline sets the tone for the celebration. A storyline is selected for each festival and performances by costumed actors follow the plot. The field becomes the fictional village of Revel Grove in Oxfordshire, England and attendees will travel back to 1534 this season. King Henry VIII is married to Anne Boleyn and they have welcomed daughter Elizabeth. The king is on the annual royal progress, and he and the courtiers visit the village to enjoy a harvest festival.
Food at the faire will include the usual popular items: fish ‘n’ chips, steak on a stake, meat pie, turkey legs, Scotch eggs, peanut butter on a stick and, thankfully, fried cheese.
Taverns, stages, theaters and arenas are the setting for many performances, including The Ballet Theatre of Maryland, pub sing-alongs, The Magical Poodles and more. The jousting arena will showcase an equestrian show and joust at various times throughout the day.
Festival regulars will notice just a few changes. Ticket sales are online only to eliminate lines (except for group sales for 20+ or discounts for active-duty military).
And precautions have been taken to protect against COVID-19. “As of opening day, every single one of the performers, employees, vendors and their employees, is vaccinated,” Smith says. “The only performers not returning were either previously scheduled for rotation or were not vaccinated. Because it is outdoors the Festival has not made it a requirement to be vaccinated to attend and will be monitoring any changes going forward and adjust accordingly.”
“There was a tent set up outside for shots for everyone on site,” says Petronella Thomann, owner of Argenti, Inc., a jewelry artisan who has a booth at the festival. “Shots are being offered to vendors and people working here. The faire proprietors are doing a phenomenal job of keeping everyone safe.”
Karen Attardo of Chesapeake Beach attends the Faire with friends each year and dresses the part. “I have been working on my garb over the course of many seasons,” Attardo says. “I started out with a basic bodice from a festival vendor. Over time, I gravitated toward a more barbarian/warrior look so I began building an outfit based on that idea. I can mix and match my garb based on the weather and my mood on any particular day.”
As a seasoned fairgoer, Attardo follows a routine.
“I like to hang out at the Dragon Inn and chat with festival friends,” Attardo says. “It’s a great place to see excellent garb and socialize with friends and strangers. I usually do a couple of circuits … for shopping and food—like sausage on a stick—and sometimes stop to catch an act or an impromptu performance on one of the lanes. When the mood strikes, festival games like blow darts, archery and knife throwing are always fun.”
Attardo offers newcomers a few tips. “The festival is popular and traffic gets quite congested so plan to get there early or be prepared to wait in traffic,” she says. “Make sure you bring cash. Food/drink vendors and some other vendors only accept cash and the festival ATMs usually have quite a line. Cash is also handy to tip the wonderful performers. Be safe, follow festival rules, and have fun! Huzzah!”
The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs every weekend, plus Labor Day, August 27 through October 24, 10am-7pm, rain or shine (https://rennfest.com/).