Making Merry at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

After years of hearing about it, I finally went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the annual autumn celebration outside of Annapolis. We went on a whim: I saw an ad, hailing entry price discounts until mid-September ($19 for adults, instead of the usual $24), and it sounded like a good idea to experience the venue before it became overly crowded. What fun! The setting–25 acres of a secluded hilly forest, surrounded by serene fields–was picturesque and fit harmoniously around stone and wooden structures housing performance stages, taverns, and artisan shops, a.k.a., the 16-century village of Revel Grove.

Maryland Renaissance Festival Map - village of Revel Grove

The village was actually much larger–and greener–than it looked from the map

Every year, Revel Grove comes alive with celebrations to honor a royal visit by Henry VIII The Royal Procession, Maryland Renaissance Festivaland his court. Each year, the festival focuses on a particular episode of the mercurial king’s reign. As you enjoy your day at the Festival, this story line plays out dramatically and seamlessly in the background. The royal procession and its members meander through the village in a mixture of scripted acts and clever improvisations (the actors stay in character throughout; I LOVED taking directions from Mary Boleyn, who talked about her father, the diplomat to France, and a younger sister, not yet part of the royal court).

Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon greet the rabble at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon greet the rabble at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

Royal Maypole frolicking, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Royal Maypole frolicking

With 11 stages, numerous street acts, and a wide variety of artisanal stalls and taverns, it is easy to find something to do at any given moment. The map, which you can get at the entrance, includes the schedule and listings of everything the grounds offer (including Wine and Alchemy dancer on the Market Stage, Maryland Renaissance Festivalthe royal agenda). The costumed staff are very helpful in recommending performances to suit your taste. My favorites were the swords-swallowing acts by Johnny Fox at the verdant Royal Stage, hilarious retelling of Shakespeare’s plays by Shakespeare’s Skum in the Globe Theatre, and, not to be missed, the archery demonstration and joust at the Jousting Arena. Many of the musical acts–I especially enjoyed the violin tunes by the Pyrates Royale, fiery dances by Wine and Alchemy, and wistful Gaelic songs by Abby Green–are repeated at various taverns and lanes after taking stage. It is impossible to “see everything” in one day, so we settled on a happy medium of planning some and improvising the rest, letting our senses lead us. At the end of the day, I was happy with this combination.

Johnny Fox, swordswallower extraordinaire, Maryland Renaissance Festival

He did swallow that, among many other an impressive feat

Battle of pawns in Human Chess Game in Globe Theatre, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Battle of pawns in The Human Chess Game in Globe Theatre (the actress doubled as Mary Boleyn)

Archery demonstration at the Jousting Arena, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Archery demonstration: impressive! Plus, I enjoyed the lively description of how bows and arrows are made (you can’t use just ANY feathers–they must come from the opposite sides of the goose to fly properly) by the guy from the nearby Militia Tent, there in case you ever wondered how the Tudor army was outfitted, or ran, or survived on a daily basis

Joust, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Jousting: trying to get THE HEAD OF THE TARTAR, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Jousting: trying to get THE HEAD OF THE TARTAR (the blue-red-and-yellow cylinder, in this case), an actual trial in jousts. Aw. My people. I couldn’t be prouder.

Huzzah at the jousts, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Proper joust reaction

King's knight, Maryland Renaissance Festival

The victorious King’s Knight (a VERY impressive equestrian)

Wine and Alchemy fan dance, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Wine and Alchemy fan dance

Hack and Slash, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Hack and Slash on the Royal Stage

Hack and Slash, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Hack and Slash, the pivotal moment

Street performer, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Awesomely creepy Gabriel Q, the puppeteer

And, if all else fails, you can always just people watch: friars, grand Renaissance ladies, fairies, magicians, warriors–all of them joyful at the opportunity to be there, see each other and be seen.

Jolly friar and a lady, Maryland Renaissance Festival

The Mad Hatter, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Audience, Maryland Renaissance Festival

The cheering audience: Gandalf and Gimli would be proud

Ladies, Maryland Renaissance Festival Masks, Maryland Renaissance Festival Fairies, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Cup maker, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Awesome costumes at Maryland Renaissance Festival Artisan beer ($5), mead ($5), and water ($2) were easy to find, and food options wereSteak on a Stake, Maryland Renaissance Festival numerous enough to delight a most discerning carnivore. This vegetarian enjoyed a falafel wrap from a stall on Kenwood Lane, fresh, filling, and inexpensive ($5), while a carnivore in the group loved the steak on a stake.

Food stalls, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Creative foods, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Anything on a stick, food at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

Major food theme: anything you can think of–on a stick!

Walking snack machines, Maryland Renaissance FestivalCappuccino, Renaissance-style, Maryland Renaissance Festival All in all, this was a great way to spend a Sunday, especially fun for children, actual or inner. I think I will do this again!

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11 thoughts on “Making Merry at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

    • Thank you! It was a revelation for me–I didn’t really think I’d enjoy it, and certainly not as much as I did in the end. I heard, though, that the place becomes extremely crowded from mid-September on, which apparently takes away from the enjoyment of it all.

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