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A last-minute summer vacation: Joust in time for fun

September 12, 2006|by MARY A. KAVANAGH

When school started this week, students repeatedly heard the same question, "What did you do this summer?"

The usual responses were given: visits to the beach, to colleges. But I did not fall in with the common bunch. I yelped, "I rode an elephant!"

I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't mechanical. It wasn't three men dressed in a suit either. It was a real, live Asian elephant at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, Md., in Anne Arundel County.

And I strongly encourage any Renaissance fans, weapons aficionados or just about anyone to go.

The food was absolutely fantastic. Where else could you get a turkey leg the size of a small child's head for only $4? Besides turkey legs, you could find anything - bagels, oysters, root beer floats, barbecue ribs and everyone's favorite - chicken on a lance.

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Other than having enough selection to please an entire family, it's also affordable. Spending a day at a Hershey Park, in Washington, D.C., or just about anywhere, you'll have to spend a few big ones on just a measly bottle of water, but here all drinks are a dollar. In fact most foods - served in monstrous portions, might I add - are no more than $2 or $3.

Now I admit I am not like the average girl of the 21st century who lives to shop, but at the Renaissance Festival, I had to pick inside the shops just a bit. Vendors sold almost everything imaginable and there were so many of them. Guests can buy lyres, violins, artwork, lotions and scents, toys, hats, complete costumes, marionettes or puppets, even chain mail and lances. The most popular items were walking sticks - customized to anyone's size and style, with numerous decorative options.

Attractions and games were around every corner and down every path. Once again, I was amazed at their low prices. After paying admission to the whole festival, most activities were free, including the pony rides, the jousting contests, the fight school, and attendance to the festival's daily wedding at 11 a.m.

For instance, admittance to the Ripley-esque museum was $2, and archery, cannon firing, the enchanted maze and other games were a dollar. However, if you plan on riding the elephant, like I did, bring $10. To help you feel as though you are in King Henry VII's time even more, there are courtiers, musicians, jesters and the King himself loitering around the festival every day.

Traveling to the Renaissance Festival this summer was an experience I will not forget, especially riding the elephant. Plus, I have every weekend until Oct. 22 to go back and try cheesecake on a stick, and so do you!




If you go ...



WHAT: Maryland Renaissance Festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 22. Open rain or shine.

WHERE: Crownsville, Md., near Annapolis

COST: Tickets are $8 to $17; some activities in the festival cost additional fees.

CONTACT: Call 1-800-296-7304 or go to www.rennfest.com.

DIRECTIONS: Go to www.rennfest.com/renaissance-festival-directions.shtml.

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