Chivalry is not dead at Renaissance festival

September 12, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

CROWNSVILLE, Md. - A visit to a 16th-century English village is fewer than two hours away.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival, on a 25-acre wooded site near Annapolis, Md., anticipates a visit from Henry VIII and his royal court every weekend through the end of October. The "faire" also expects to have more than 290,000 visitors over nine weekends in its 28th season.

People come to the festival from all over - from different countries and different parts of the United States - but 65 percent are from the greater Washington, D.C., area, said Jules Smith, general manager.

They come to experience the music, jugglers, magicians, children's activities, jousters in full armor, fire-eaters and dancers, as well as a variety of crafts and works of art.


There's a full menu of food - "steak on a stake," giant turkey legs, meat pies and knave sandwiches among the offerings. Thirst can be quenched with ale or mead at one of the festival's five pubs, and softer drinks also are available.

Smith, general manager since 1986, came to the world of the Renaissance festival by way of his father, a Minnesota attorney who helped a man set up a similar enterprise in California, and decided to take a similar journey.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival is not a theme park with concrete walkways, Smith said. Chivalry - the chance for people to be a little better than they are, the chance to be a lord or lady, to put your cloak in the mud for somebody - is part of the setting's appeal, he added. Of course, the Renaissance world of Crownsville is not as restrictive to women as the days of yore, and nobles don't own the serfs, Smith said.

There are professional performers - Johnny Fox, "Sword Swallower Extraordinare," is there this season. So is hammered dulcimer virtuoso Maggie Sansone.

Many of the street performers are region residents, some of whom have weekday jobs in computer technology, government, real estate - even NASA.

"It's an interesting group of folks," Smith said.

If you go

Maryland Renaissance Festival

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 24

Crownsville Road

Crownsville, Md.

Tickets are sold the day of the show at the festival entrance and cost $17 for ages 16 to 61; $15 for those 62 and older; $8 for ages 7 to 15. Children younger than 7 are admitted free. Group discounts are available.

For information, call 1-800-296-7304 or 1-410-266-7304 or go to on the Web.

Directions from Hagerstown: Take Interstate 70 east to Interstate 695 and continue south to Exit 4, Md. 3 and Interstate 97 south.

Stay left on Interstate 97 south toward Annapolis as it splits from Md. 3.

Take Exit 5, Crownsville.

Turn right at third light onto Crownsville Road. Follow 1 1/2 miles to festival on left.

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