The Texas Renaissance Festival is a Texas Tradition you need to see for yourself. TRF was founded 45 years ago in 1947 by George Colum in Todd Mission, Texas. The grounds of the Texas Renaissance festival sit on 55 acres of land to explore. There are 19 days the festival runs out of the year, and it is divided up into themed weekends. Festival-goers can find hundreds of shops, tasty eats from around the world, and performances by musical acts and performers that celebrate the times of the Renaissance. There is so much to experience at TRF. It would be impossible to do it all in one day. I was privileged to get an inside look at the Texas Renaissance Festival, so join me as I talk to the people of the festival and get lost into a land not so far from home.
Insight from within
Before the opening ceremony for all hallow’s eve weekend, I spoke with marketing manager Marlena Solomon. Mrs. Solomon tells me that people from all over the world come to the Texas Renaissance Festival. She had been a patron for ten years before joining the TRF staff. Half a million attendees went to the fair in 2018, and she expects just as many, if not more, this year. The festival has about 300 character actors that represent the English, Spanish, German, and Italian courts of the renaissance.
“You walk through the gates, you enter a different world, it’s magical, it has all kinds of characters,” Solomon told me. “It’s a whole other world you become immersed in… You know, maybe there are different things going on outside of the gates, that you can just kind of leave [that] behind, enjoy yourself, and have lasting memories with your friends and family out here.”
You will find 20 stage and musical acts. Kids 12 and under can go in free on Sundays. Texas Renaissance Festival offers school days, where a new generation can learn about the festival. TRF also has group events and wedding venues where dozens of couples marry every season. Costume contests begin every day at 2 pm, and at 4 pm, a food eating contest is held. Also, you’ll find a brew school, scotch tasting, pub crawl, and tea and strumpets parties at 1 and 4 pm. There is no shortage of entertainment. Marlena suggests you make sure you plan your itinerary and to check out the website before going to the festival.
Since I had arrived early, I got to see the cannons go off in the morning. I had never experienced it before, so it was nice to see the opening of the gates. To my surprise, we got to hear the bagpipes early on and to see some of the character actors welcome everyone to the festival. I wander into the gates and start going around, trying to get a feel for things. It is quite early, so I decided to go off, looking around shops, and to talk to some vendors.
First was Great Hall Design, the largest shop in the festival. I met with manager Stacy Hamilton. Stacey let me know GHD has been at the festival for five years. She told me the shop offers a combination of statues, hand made textiles and more featuring sea life and fairy life by Alli Designs and John Coiner Pottery. What Stacy loves about being a part of the Texas Renaissance Festival is the people. “Yeah, absolutely, all the people are pretty darn amazing.”
Next, I head off to Pendragon Costumes and speak with manager Marita Beth there. Marita tells me that she’s been the manager at Pendragon Costumes for 26 years, and the store has been there for 27 years. Pendragon sells relatively high-end clothing of the renaissance. Marita says of the festival, “The best part about the ren fest experience is the people, dealing with fun and different patrons. You never know who’s gonna walk in and then the people that actually do this for a living are a really special group,” she continues. “It’s a close-knit community, and it’s really wonderful people, so that’s really the best thing.”
Queen of the Festival
I arrive in time to watch the first joust event from the top of the hill before my highlight moment of the day, meeting the Queen of the Festival. My one on one moment with the Queen was short but sweet. The queen’s duties include ruling the New Market Village along with the King and also keeping the knights in order. The Queen and the King are ambassadors of New Market Village to the outside world. She says that she loves to meet all the people that come to the village.
“I do feel that often times we get so thoroughly wrapped up in the life that we live on the outside of the walls of the kingdom,” her majesty tells me. “Coming here and bringing joy to people when sometimes their day is probably a little overwhelmed with other things and just letting them forget that just a little bit, I think that’s very important.”
As for what the Queen loves most about the Texas Renaissance Festival, “I absolutely love meeting all the new people that come into the village. Especially the children; the children just make the magic of the village just so much more exciting, and they bring so much joy.”
A Magical Fair Experience
Venturing further into the Texas Renaissance Festival, you run into a lot of patrons that dress in costume. I meet some pretty amazing people that day. I stopped to speak with Brenda Childress first. Brenda has been going to TRF for 17 years. She made her costume and had won a costume contest at the festival before. “I tell everybody, you gotta come to Texas, put it in your bucket list,” she says. “If you’ve never been to the Texas Renaissance Festival, you need to come because it’s the biggest one in the country. It’s the best in the country, and if you’ve been here, there’s no comparison to anywhere else.”
Next, I find Charles and Marcie from the Heights in Houston, TX. They were wearing costumes that took them years to put together, acquiring each item piece by piece at the festival and other events. They have been coming to TRF since 1997. “It’s like coming home. You get to see people you don’t get to see throughout the years, and you only get to see them this time of year,” Marcie explains. Also, I met Ryan, who has been working various jobs at TRF for nine seasons. He tells me of working the festival every season, “I really enjoy helping the business grow and being a part of it all, so I really wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
“I won’t ever stop coming”
The next group I find are sisters Elizabeth Nation and Katherine McBride. They have been coming to the Texas Renaissance Festival since they were six. Elizabeth and Katherine tell me that they do not enjoy the direction the fair is going, and feel like it has become too commercialized. Regardless, Elizabeth says, “I won’t ever stop coming, we’re never gonna not come. Even if it’s not the way it was, it’s still something that we love.”
I also spoke to ‘Kat’, who is among some of the newer generation of festival-goers. This is her third time at the festival. Kat comes to TRF for the shows and the entertainment, and the joust is one of her favorite shows. “It’s very festive, I love dressing up and being in a different world. you feel like you’re going back in time, getting away from the real world and taking a break from reality because it’s harsh,” she explained. “I just love watching everybody being festive and happy.”
Back to Reality
As I exit for the day, I reflect on my time at the Texas Renaissance Festival. You will find a bit of everything. Not only entertainment, shopping, and food, but you can find a sense of community. You go into a place where you feel like you can belong and be a part of an ever-growing family. No matter if you’re going for the first time or have been going for along time. Dress up or don’t dress up; it doesn’t matter. You go to have fun, to be merry and “lift up thy cares,” as they say. Family, children, and friends enjoy their time together and form memories in a magical place that helps you get away from the real world for a little while.
I know I enjoyed my time and also as I start to teach my children as they went for the first time a day ago, hope that they will keep going as well. To see and know they loved it as first-timers, to see that everyone loves it that goes there, shows me why others should go. The festival runs each weekend, as well as the Friday after Thanksgiving until December 1st. Tickets are available onsite or online at www.texrenfest.com
Have you been to the Texas Renaissance festival? If you haven’t, do you plan to go to it? Have you been to other renaissance festivals? What do you think of TRF if you have been there? We want to hear from you! Comment below, and if you believe someone would be interested in going, share this article with them. You never know who you might influence to come and experience the greatness that is the Texas Renaissance Festival.