The plague, the feudal system, the Crusades, religious persecution, oppression of women - all things you won't be remembering when you visit the Florida Renaissance Festival, taking place this weekend through March 16 at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach before it moves south to Cauley Square in Miami on March 29. Instead, the Renaissance Festival focuses on the good things from that era when Europe was emerging from the Dark Ages; things like giant turkey legs, fancy velvet costumes, archery, joust and of course, the expression Huzzah! Here are some highlights of the Renaissance Festival that will get you in a medieval mood.
1. Epic Battles
The knights of the Renaissance Festival face off in a series of equestrian games, joust and other entertainments on horseback that will have you on the edge of your bleacher seat. These tournaments at the Field of Dreams are one of the big attractions as you get to see the poor guys who signed up to be knights riding across a field in a metal suit under the hot Florida sun. If they don't pass out from sunstroke, they all deserve to be knighted.
2. Weird Rides and Games
In a state like Florida, where all the kids have been to Disney World a million times, you would think that a giant-sized rocking horse or a man-powered swing would not be of interest. But wait until they see the festival's rustic and technology-free attractions. They will eagerly make you pay $3-$5 for a turn on a piece of wood being pushed by a carnie.
3. Bizarre Entertainment
Washing wenches, mud dancers, magicians, comedians, gypsies, poets, glass blowers and many other genre-defying acts await you at the Renaissance Festival's 14 different stages. Make sure you peruse the schedule so you can fit everything in.
4. Turkey legs, obviously
While it was not a time that was heralded for its awesome cuisine, the Renaissance period seems to be ever associated with giant turkey legs. They can be found in abundance, along with lots of typical festival food that may or may not have been on the menu in the 1600s. Oh, and beer.
5. Freaks all around
Not everyone who is dressed up in costume is on the payroll at the Renaissance Festival. In fact, the weekend themes provide the perfect excuse for those who want to join in the fun to go for it. Don a pirate costume for Pirate's Weekend (Feb. 15-17), or bust out the bodice for Bodacious Bodice Weekend (Feb. 22-23). Let your freak flag fly on Mar.1-2 at the Steampunk Costume Contest and Fashion Parade (you can pretty much wear whatever you want, as long as it's weird). Fans of HBO's "Game of Thrones" can channel their inner Khaleesi or Jon Snow on Mar. 8-9 when the festival hosts an epic battle for the kingdom of Westeros. Finally, Celtic Weekend (Mar. 15-16) is the perfect excuse for the guys to bust out those kilts. But don't be surprised to find people dressed up in all manner of costume just because.
Photos by Allison Diaz and Marice Cohn Band from Miami Herald archive.