What’s the story?
Well, back in September of 1971, a collection of people got together and created (as Carr Hagermann, the Ratcatcher, puts it) a “hippie in burlap festival.” Back then, it was titled “A Celebration of Nature, Art, and Life!” Over 25,000 people attended on that opening weekend of the infant Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Jonathan, Minnesota, and it’s only grown since then. Several nationally-known folks got their start at this Celebration. Penn and Teller performed for the first time together on August 19, 1975; Puke and Snot developed their show as street performers at the ‘Fest; Jason Mraz was once a pickle seller! And one of the best shows out there, The Danger Committee, has performed on America’s Got Talent.
Currently the Renaissance Faire (RenFaire or The Ren for short), resides atop a gravel quarry in Shakopee, Minnesota. The quarry is slowly but surely being dug out, but we’re assured of the Renaissance Festival’s continuing life heading into the future.
So what out there is such a big attraction? Here are a few of my favorites:
The Danger Committee
They started out as the Dew Drop Jugglers, and they were hilarious. Juggling and jokes and – best of all – audience interaction! Some of my fondest memories of the RenFaire feature Mick, Jason and Jeff.
They have since changed, developed and morphed into The Danger Committee, featuring Bald Guy (Mick), Other One (Jay), and Reynaldo (Caleb). In addition to fire, juggling, jokes and audience interaction, knife-throwing and the Principle of Escalating Stupidity have been added. There are a few standard shows – the Fire Show, the Ninja Show, the Danger Show – and ALL are well worth the repeated visits! They’re fun, the humor is mostly clean, and after taking the Oath (don’t be doing this at home, kids!) you can even buy it on a T-shirt!
Zilch the Torysteller
Zilch plays the mandolin, has a fine singing voice, but his key entertainment is reciting fairy tales and even Shakespeare in spoonerism. You know, when you switch the consonants of words around and say something completely different from what you intended? He does “Loldigocks and the Bee Threars,” “Parunzel,” “Rindercella and the Stwo Tugly Uepsisters,” and if you’re very lucky, he’ll sing for you the song of the “Arachnid of diminutive stature.” I’ve been going to see him for years, I could probably recite most of his rendition of “Jomeo and Ruliet, that Tagic Trale of Chwo Tildren of Horing Wouses, by Shilliam Wakespere, the Bard of Avon Calling, dong-ding” and yet I always end up laughing until my sides hurt!
The Royal Scots
One of the most awesome groups! Friendly, welcoming, enthusiastic, the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society performs traditional reels, jigs and strathspeys to live bagpipes. In between dances, one of the members talks a bit about each dance, and at some point during the performance, they will even invite members of the audience to join them!
As you walk the byways of the ‘Fest, keep your eyes and ears peeled for the street musicians and bit performances! Just beware – make eye contact and you could find yourself part of the play!
Okay, a day at ‘Fest is totally incomplete without sampling some of the fine fare that’s offered. Brother Ted loves the gyros; buddy Ivan’s enjoyed the meat pies; there’s soup or stew in a bread bowl, and my personal favorite, fish ‘n chips! Go early enough in the weeked and they even might have lemon slices for the fish! There’s beef jerky, homemade nut rolls, the popovers are cinnamon-scented loveliness, and I never go home unless I’ve had a Jester sundae. Best of all, the food places are scattered throughout the many paths, so you’re never too far away from something that strikes your fancy!
The Royal Herpetological Society
Snakes and lizards and crocodiles and turtles, and handlers to tell you about each one, what could be better?!? I’ll admit, the Herp Society cottage isn’t for everyone, but stop on by anyway. You might have fun learning about the critters, and for the really brave among you, you are invited to pet them! And since everyone knows that snakes at least carry salmonella on their skins as part of their natural bacteria, there’s a hand-washing station nearby.
Soooooo much more!
From the Juggling School…
…to the mermaid cove…
…the home of the wizard of riddles…
…to the King’s Dungeon,
there’s something for everyone to enjoy! Check out the Special Events pavilion for wench pressing, beer tasting, belly dancing exhibitions, and the nearby track for jousting, warhorse rides and on the right weekend, daschund races!!
And then of course there’s people-watching; because not everyone in a Renaissance costume is actually part of the ‘Fest – sometimes it’s just people who love to dress up on a weekend and come out to play in the romanticized past.
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
12364 Chestnut Boulevard, Shakopee, MN 55379
Weekends and Labor Day from the third weekend in August to the first weekend in October, 9AM to 7PM, RAIN OR SHINE THE SHOW GOES ON!!
Adults (gate) $22.95, (advance) $19.95; Children – defined as age 5-12, (gate) $13.95, (advance) $11.50; Seniors – defined as 62 and up, (gate) $20.95. For advance tickets, check out Walgreens, SuperAmerica or Menards, or head over to the MN RenFaire website to buy them electronically.
Phone, (952) 445-7361; email, email@example.com