With Summer making it’s exodus and Autumn peering around the corner, here in Michigan that can only mean one thing, that it’s time for Jumbo turkey legs, jousting matches and fun galore in the name of The Michigan Renaissance Festival!
While The Michigan Renaissance Festival (MRF) has been around for decades, I hadn’t been since I was in grade school. Much of what I remember from back then centered around giant turkey legs, feeling like I was thrown back in time, and a festival worker giving me a sharp axe to throw at a wooden target. As odd of a mix of memories as that sounds, I remember it being a lot of fun. Thirty years later and I can assure you that the fun of the MRF truly transcends a 9 year olds recollections.
From the moment you enter the castle-like festival gates you feel like you’ve traveled back to a time before technology took over, and you start to ignore your mysterious wizardly devices (smartphones and iPads) in favor of the surrounding live theatre. Various weapon blacksmiths and wench-clad costume shops line the perimeter as you walk amongst a mix of 21st century patrons and fully immersed costumed workers and revelers. Pirates, fairies, swordsmen and knights, even a 12ft tall walking tree. If you can dream it, you can see it at the MRF.
Speaking of sights to see, one of the major staples of the fest is the jousting competition that’s held thrice per day. A mix of comedy, crowd participation and skill as the jousters do their best to entertain the adoring crowd. Each section is given a knight and horse to represent them in the competition. The Red knight represented my section, though he was not victorious this time. But up until the very end the jokes were flowing and good times were shared.
My eldest niece, who is a performing arts student, tried to brush it off as just LARP’ing. I had to show her that it’s not just role playing, it’s immersing yourself into another world. It’s like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and waking up in Medieval times. Instead of sitting in an auditorium and watching a play, you’re walking among and interacting with the characters. A truly encompassing experience that is like no other.
Good sirs and fair maidens, grab your armor and corsets, for it is that time of the year! Time to rejoice with wine, wenches and song. Time to gorge on turkey, jerky, and mugs full of beer. Time to cast off the trappings of the 21st century and enjoy the live in-your-face theatre of the Renaissance around us.
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