Renaissance on the beach

 

The Middle Ages make a comeback on Virginia Key over three weekends in January during the Miami Renaissance Festival.

Renaissance Festival 2

By Solange Reyner

Before slipping on a gown fit for a queen, Jasmine Ready is helping to build the stage she will perform on.

“No monarchy syndrome here,'' said Ready, who will perform as Queen Isabella over the course of the next three weekends in the Miami Renaissance Festival on historic Virginia Key Beach.

The show is the first in Miami-Dade County since Vizcaya ended its Ren-Fest five years ago and has been brought to town by founder and executive director Bobby Rodriguez. Its theme centers around Ponce de Leon exploring Key Biscayne on his first mission to the New World - what a surprise - circa 1513.

“You're traveling back in time here and going to another era,'' said Rodriguez, who also runs the popular Deerfield Beach Festival. “I'm changing the entertainment so that you can have a variety - we really focused on the Hispanic end being in Miami and we're hopeful that people like it.''

With all the money he's dished out - the entertainment budget alone has already topped $180,000 - Rodriguez is also hoping for a good turnout. There's certainly plenty going on at the site, including jousting tournaments three times a day, historical reenactments, sword fights, magical illusions, and kid-friendly games.

Ready's been working 18 days to help get the show up and running, practicing her role while assisting in the construction of 12 stages.

“I ran a motel for five years for my husband's family in Cape Cod, Mass., so I'm used to doing all kinds of maintenance things and being in the nitty gritty and not worrying about hiring someone else to do it,'' said Ready.

“But performing will certainly be a nice break.''

The dual task is likely among Ren-Fest employees. Entertainment directors Paul Stickney and Richard Weber worked to secure talent for the show, but will also don costumes come Saturday.

“I am the Cardinal and I've played it for 20 years,'' said Stickney.

That's certainly earned him some fanfare.

“It's a very low grade of celebrity, but we've certainly been recognized. Someone who recognized my brother and I as the Pope and the Cardinal stopped me in Picadilly Circus in London. We were stopped at Busch Gardens, recognized at Disney World, in New York - it's exciting.''

So is the food lineup - if you enjoy theme-park type meals. There's anything from
Turkey Legs to kettle corn, which can be washed down with a swig of mead or ale. Charles Pilamunga, a Miami resident and Ren-fest enthusiast, will be in Pirate attire for the event. “It should be good. Every year I have gone, it's been a good show,'' said Pilamunga, who said the venue would be a nice change of pace.

“It's not that far of a drive and it's going to be a little bit cheaper than the other days. It's also closer.''

Rodriguez is hoping the locals will come out.

“We've got a wonderful reputation up and Broward County and I hope to do the same thing here.”

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