Hear ye, hear ye! Prepare to be taken on a most excellent adventure into the past. No, Bill and Ted aren’t going to let you hitch a ride in their radical phone booth, but something equally as bodacious is returning to Pensacola. Ah, yes, the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire (GCRF) is coming up.
Ren-Faires have long been a very interesting, not to mention fun, way to satisfy your hungry mind’s craving for a journey to a world from the past to learn about early civilization and its impact on the way we live today. Rich with interesting characters and mind-blowing entertainment, the GCRF will try to provide Pensacola with the most authentic medieval experience possible. There are, however, a few surprises this year.
“We have a great festival put together this year,” says Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire President Steve Melei. “We’ve upped the ante, so to speak, by adding another stage and some really cool new features and activities. Of course, there will be the usual attractions, like the Knights of Valor jousting team, world class falconry, full armor sword fighting, you name it. We have something for everyone.”
Something for everyone? Let’s look into that some more, shall we?
There will be jesters, jugglers and all sorts of talented, if not odd, showmen. “There will be sword swallowing, fire breathing and stilt walkers, as well as gypsy, middle eastern and Irish dance troupes,” Melei adds. “There are also a number of costumed characters that will be mingling with the crowd throughout the festivities also, which is really cool. We have a tree man who is about fifteen feet tall and is basically a walking, talking tree. He is very impressive. There is also Torok, the Good Troll. He’s one of our resident characters. He has a big skull throne that he takes pictures with people on, and he roams around, sprinkling troll dust on people. Nightmare is a demon character that is about 12 feet tall with huge demon wings and fangs. She’s pretty intimidating, but perfectly harmless. She also does an awesome fire show. There will also be great music provided by Good Neighbors All, Drunk N Sailor and more.”
In addition to the entertainers and attractions, there will be educational and interactive aspects of the festival. The Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds will be turned into a living, working 250-person village. “We’ve turned the fairgrounds into a full-on medieval village. Every one of our villagers will speak the King’s English and walk you through the daily lives of our ancient brethren. We have a wonderful female blacksmith, who will be making and selling pieces and taking orders for more detailed works. You will experience authentic medieval life here. We take great care to make everything true to the time period. Of course, we will also have our usual 50-75 vendors and merchants, selling both period and modern food, as well as all your medieval wares.”
For the kids, there will be bounce houses and all sorts of fun stuff to do, including horse and camel rides, as well as rides on jousting steeds offered by the Knights of Valor. The newly added stage will be used by a troupe of puppeteers, who will be doing shows for the both the young and young at heart. The wee ones can also visit the local wizards for a trick, or say hello to the dragon who keeps guard over the village. There are all kinds of adventures to get into, which is why this thing is two days long.
For those of you who like your action with maximum adrenaline, check out the jousts. This age old sport has been carried on into the now by the toughest of tough, who seek glory in the highest form. However, there is a new ingredient to this manliest of sports—estrogen. What? Yes, you read that right. This year’s joust will feature the first appearance by the world’s first ever female jouster. That’s right, boys. It’s not just a guy thing after all.
Knights of Valor captain and world jousting champion Shane Adams tells of how a woman came to enter the ranks of the male-dominated profession. “I met Jessica Post two years ago after doing a big equestrian event. She was there in attendance and came up to talk to me about jousting. She mentioned that she was into the whole medieval scene and did a lot of sword fighting and weapons play type stuff. She told me how she always wanted to try jousting but thought that women couldn’t be knights. I said ‘Why not?’ There have been many women throughout history that have worn armor and ridden into battle alongside men and competed in some of the sporting events of the time, such as Joan of Arc. She asked me if I would train her, and I said I would be glad to, as long as she had the heart and the will to follow it through. As long as she really wanted it, I could turn her into a full-contact jouster. Well, she came out to our training camp and picked it up like a natural. After about a year, she entered the World Jousting Championships and went to the finals twice, placing seventh overall. Not too bad at all. Jessica now rides with the Knights of Valor and we are proud to have her aboard.”
The action will be fast and furious as the jousters ready their lances to put on a show for us bloodthirsty spectators. Not only will you get to see Jessica Post in action for the first time on the Gulf Coast, but Shane Adams is no slouch, and will definitely make it a tough day at the office for anyone trying to remove him from his saddle. If you go to the Ren-Faire for one thing, this should probably be it. But, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t check out the rest of the great attractions and cool things to see, do and eat while at the Renaissance Faire. Don’t be afraid to give in to your curiosity and feed your mind.
GULF COAST RENAISSANCE FAIRE
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Feb. 26-27
WHERE: Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds, 6655 Mobile Highway
COST: $10 adults, $5 ages 5-12, Free 4 and under