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I was not sure what to expect at my first Renaissance Festival - dressed up nerds and some fried turkey legs? Well, those were there, but it was infinitely more than that.

Renaissance Fairs first appeared in California in the 1960's after a resurgence of interest in medieval culture. Many of the first booths were historical reenactments, and vendors were artisans who were required to maintain historical accuracy. Today, fairs include actors in character, comedy shows, jousting, games, and a large range of vendors and activities.

Upon entering the Ohio Renaissance Festival, I was in awe. This fictional 16th century village, Willy Nilly-on-the-Wash, is over 25 years old and boasts over 100 shops and 12 outdoor stages. It's a bustling 30-acre village with winding streets and unique, moss covered buildings. There are a lot of people dressed up or in character, and the food is outstanding. I found that it's a lot more fun to go with the flow and dress up, at least with a flower crown.

We watched a couple comedy sword fighting shows, ate turkey legs, drank overpriced beer, threw axes and wandered the streets looking at everything for sale from tarot cards to capes to wooden toys.

I've thought quite hard about why exactly I love these festivals so much. I've come to the conclusion that they challenge you to think differently, get out of your comfort zone, try something new, and laugh at yourself along the way.

Good to Know:

Parking: There is parking, and it's $2-3 cash upon arrival

Tickets: You can buy tickets there. They offer a child and military discount, and we found that if you plan to go more than once, the 'season pass' is worth it.

Themed Weekends: Check their website to see what the weekend's theme is. You'll get some outfit inspiration and might find another weekend you want to attend as well.

ATMS: Don't worry, they 10 feet from the entrance. Many vendors also take credit cards.

How to Plan Your Day: You can look up special events and show times on the website, but when you arrive you'll also receive a map. This is a guide to all the vendors, food, rides, and show times. Many of the acts play multiple times a day, and in a half day we normally see 4-5 comedy shows and live music. It would be possible to see all the shows in one day, but you'd be missing out on a lot of other activities. Since we don't get out of bed til 10:30, we plan for a couple half days a season.

Jousting: If you want to have a seat for the jousting, you need to get there early. If you're cheap, there are some bleachers you can snag. If you don't mind paying $10, you can sit in the 'premium' seats, which are shaded and I believe come with a free beverage. If you're late like us, there is standing room on the (slight) hillside. You can sort of see what's happening, but not really.

Participation: If you're sitting in a crowd during a live music performance or a comedy show, there's a good chance you'll be called out, dragged on stage, or sung about. If you want to lessen your chances of being called out, sit in the back and ESPECIALLY don't be on your phone. As Will learned, that's asking for it (see below).

Tipping: At the end of most shows, they'll walk around asking for tips. Not mandatory, but a nice gesture I would recommend doing.

Children: This event is, of course, great for kids. What I also like about it is that a lot of the 'kid themed' activities are lumped together and quite avoidable (if that's what you're trying to do). As it turns out in this instance, a lot of the things kids wants to do, are also what I want to do. The Renaissance Festival is a magical place where we can all be entertained in harmony.

What to Bring: Prep with some sunscreen and bug spray. Bring a water bottle, snacks, cash, and some sort of costume-y thing. If you're on the fence about it, you should bring it.

Weather: The majority of everything is outdoors, so dress for the weather.


Let's appreciate some type, shall we?

Your Hand In Wax

Sign, acrylic on wood (I'm assuming)

I tried to find some history regarding dipping one's hand in wax to make a candle, but as you can imagine it's hard since the phrase 'hand dipped candle' is so common. I'm going to assume people have enjoyed playing with hot wax since the dawn of time and would eventually discover hand-as-candle fun. Just don't want to think of what other body parts they experimented with..

WHAT I DID COME ACROSS, however, was a Wikipedia page on what is known as the Hand of Glory. It's a mummified hand of someone (a murderer) who has been hung. They use the corpse fat to make a candle which then sits atop the hand. I regret this activity is not available at Renaissance Festivals.


Various Food Signs

The food at the Ohio Ren Fest is fantastic. Turkey legs are a must, but I'm more of a gyro person. I also tried a giant pineapple filled with more pineapple chunks and pineapple puree -- it was a heaven. A sticky sticky heaven.


More Activity Signs

There's a game area, a ton of shoppes and several stages and taverns with entertainment. We saw the 'Wenches A Wailing' and they were pretty funny, although not exactly kid-friendly. A lot of the live music happens in the bars, which lessens the blow when they sing "your name is like peanut butter, thick and easy to spread", etc.

I assume the shop keepers and entertainers make their own signs, and bring everything with them as they move around from festival to festival. The typography all looks hand made and unique to that vendor. If you haven't been to a Ren Fest yet, I would completely recommend it for the food, activities, and endless entertainment both on and off the stage.

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