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Tuesday 10 August 2021

Colorado Renaissance Festival

This past weekend we did something totally new for us. 

Something that until now was one of those "only in American tv shows and movies" things. 

We went to a Renaissance Festival!

Growing up in Australia, Renaissance Festivals were something that I only knew about from tv and movies. Much like school pep rallies, college sports, trick or treating, handing out valentines to classmates, school science fairs and take your kid to work day, Renaissance Festivals are one of those things that are a part of growing up in America, but totally foreign to anyone growing up elsewhere. I've said it so many times in the past, but one of my favorite things about living overseas is my kids getting to experience things that I grew up seeing on tv but could not experience for myself. It's kind of surreal, but even the littlest differences like school hallways lined with lockers and those big, yellow American school buses make me so happy and make the every day feel like an adventure! 

Anyway, back to the Renaissance Festival...

On Saturday we braved the smoky air and headed to Larkspur, south of Denver, to the annual Colorado Renaissance Festival. This year marks the 44th season of the festival and it returns after a year in hiatus due to you know what. Most Renaissance Festivals around the country did not return this Summer, so I was excited to see that our local festival was back. 

For those of you not in the US, you're probably wonder just what a Renaissance Festival is. Let's take a look...

As you can probably tell from the photos above, a Renaissance Festival is pretty much a carnival with a medieval theme. You'll find people in costumes, performances of all types, sideshow attractions and rides, artisans selling a range of goods, a petting zoo, animal rides, tasty food and drinks, a parade, and major attractions including a jousting tournament. 

One thing that really surprised me is that all of the buildings at the Renaissance Festival are permanent. I totally expected there to be marquees and tents like a county fair (or royal show in Australia), so it was a surprise to see a purpose built site with actual buildings for an annual event. It reminded me of Kryal Castle back home in Australia! That said, the festival does run for eight weekends every Summer and has been running for over forty years, so I guess it makes sense that the buildings are permanent. As you'll see in the photos the buildings, which house shops, food vendors, restrooms, and staff areas, are all designed to resemble a medieval village with turreted castles and lots of half timbered buildings - or "Fachwerk" if you prefer the German name. That was always a word that got a lot of laughs in German class at school! 

The stages are also designed in a medieval style, adding an extra touch of whimsy to the performances. We watched acrobats, jugglers, musicians, comedians and singers performing on various stages around the festival. There were also off stage performances by various cast members in costume, musicians, and even a living statue who communicated through ASL.   

People watching was definitely one of my favorite things about the festival. As you've probably noticed in the photos above, a lot of people dress up for the Renaissance Festival. It's a pretty mixed bag with some visitors in full, historically accurate costumes, some in whimsical costumes (like Ava's mushroom hat), some with just a few extra touches (like our flower garlands), and plenty of people who were just dressed for comfort. It was hot, smoky and dusty after all. Oh, and there were furries, because there are always furries no matter what the festival/parade/fair is about! 

With some of the costumes being so elaborate and people speaking in a "ye olde" style (fake English accents and all), it was a little tricky at times to tell just who was a cast member and who was a visitor. The King and Queen roamed the festival with their entourage in tow, and were pretty easy to spot, but there were visitors who were just as elaborately dressed. Or at least, I think they were visitors! Can you tell them apart in the pictures below?

The store vendors and artisans were all suitably dressed in medieval style and their stores also looked the part. There was a large range of goods for sale at the festival and many artisans demonstrating their work. We watched leather workers creating leather armor, artists painting on silk and other materials, and wood workers creating with wood and fire. All sorts of goods can be purchased at the Renaissance Festival with popular shops selling costumes and attire for adults and children alike, hats, flower garlands, wooden swords and shields, real swords (I was a little scared taking the kids into that shop!), pottery, ornaments, plush toys, musical instruments, wooden goblets and mugs, leather goods, parasols, fans, perfumes, candles, body products... There were also plenty of vendors selling a large range of food including the stereotypical turkey legs, kettle corn, cold drinks, baked goods, a whole lot of deep fried stuff, pretzels, pizza and so much more. The pickle wagon was one of my favorites!

As with all festivals, the kids were enthralled by the animals on display. The Renaissance Festival features a free petting zoo with farm favorites including cows, pigs, goats, llamas, ducks and chickens. Lola and Mathilde had a turn riding a llama and a Brahman bull. There were also falcon demonstrations, a unicorn called Lily, camel rides, and an elephant in the parade. 

Meeting Lily the unicorn was definitely a highlight. Lola and Mathilde got to give her a hug and then they were given "fairy dust" aka glitter, to make a wish with. Mathilde tipped hers straight on her head and of course I'm still finding glitter days later!

Of course, Lily wasn't the only horse at the Renaissance Festival. Wait, she's a unicorn, not a horse! Let's say, she wasn't the only equine creature to see. That's better. There were, of course, horses and knights in the jousting tournament. We watched the jousting tournament and it was a pretty fun spectacle to see. The king, queen and courtiers entered the arena in a procession and then watched the tournament from their pavilion while us peasants sat on the grass. The event involved the knights showing off their skills followed by the actual joust. When a winner had not been chosen from the joust the knights dismounted and battled on foot with various weapons. Musicians played music ranging from your classic medieval style to Queen's "We will rock you" while the crowd cheered. It was a pretty fun event. Afterwards the girls practiced their own battle with the wooden weapons they had purchased and then we met with one of the knights for photos. Look, I even made it into a photo! 

Speaking of knights, Mathilde had the opportunity to be knighted by the king! Lola decided that she was too old for this, although she totally could have taken part. Mathilde joined other kids in a ceremony to be knighted by either the king or the queen. It was pretty cute and she was excited that she got to be Sir Mathilde - although I'm pretty sure her title should probably have been Dame Mathilde. I guess they just called all of the kids "sir". Mathilde was impressed that the girl who was knighted alongside her had a "real" sword rather than a wooden one like she had, but I have a feeling it might have been plastic! Also, how freaking cute is Canterbury Chapel where the ceremony took place? Doesn't it look straight out of a fairy tale?

We had a fabulous time at Colorado Renaissance Festival and we'll definitely be back again next year. Even though we had a full day, there was so much more that we didn't get a chance to see and do. Ava is keen to try and get a job there once she turns 16, so we'll just have to see if that happens. It would definitely be a fun place to work.

If you'd like to check out Colorado Renaissance Festival for yourself there are a few more weeks left to attend. It is held Saturdays and Sundays through August 22nd 2021. The festival is open from 10am to 6:30pm. 

Tickets can be purchased online at https://coloradorenaissance.com/tickets/ or at the door. Online tickets are $25 for adults and $11 for children ages 5 to12. At the door tickets are $27 for adults and $12 for children. Children under the age of 5 are admitted free of charge and do not need a ticket. If you purchase your tickets in advance it's best to either print them or take a screen shot to show on your phone (or "fairy box" as the staff called it!) as the internet coverage is not the best and you may not get them to load from an email or text link. I learned this from experience!

For more information visit https://coloradorenaissance.com/

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