Thousands of people visit Greenbrier County every August for the State Fair of West Virginia. But now there’s an additional “faire” on tap in June — the West Virginia Renaissance Festival.
With such enticing monikers as “The Enchanted Grove,” “The Fish Inn,” the “Tudor Tower” and the ominous-sounding “Wheel of Death,” the festival’s many attractions are arrayed across the verdant landscape at Hollow Hills Farm, eight miles west of Lewisburg. Dotted with arenas, stages and festive tents, the venue was already bustling with entertainers honing their acts when media were invited in for a sneak preview Thursday afternoon.
With only two days to go until “showtime” on Saturday, the joust rehearsal attracted quite a bit of attention, as did the gravity-defying antics of Grant Murray (aka Ichabod Wainwright) on the aforementioned Wheel of Death. Each of those shows will be performed three times a day during this weekend’s festival.
Professional performer Francesca is one of the stars of the Nature of Mercy show that is also part of the Renaissance Festival. She described her thrice-daily show as a “sword fighting comedy show for children,” but with plenty of action for adults to enjoy as well.
Francesca spends 10 months a year performing in festivals all across the U.S. “It’s a good life; we get to see the country,” she said.
Next up for her and her dueling partner are trips to Michigan and Las Vegas. “We follow the sunshine,” Francesca said. “This is one of our favorites.”
This is only the second year for the West Virginia Renaissance Festival, founded by film and television actor and stunt performer Taso Stavrakis and his wife, Dawn Kieninger.
New features in this year’s festival, Stavrakis said, will include Bill Darr, a bowyer (creator of Medieval longbows), who will ply his craft and give demonstrations of the ancient weapon twice a day.
The Amazing Guerrilla Band will perform what band leader Jim calls “hit and run music” near the fairground’s front gate throughout the day Saturday and Sunday. He plays the hammered dulcimer, while his wife plays a corded zither.
Jim said he became involved in the festival scene when a fellow performer at an open mic show in Chicago told him he “ought to audition.”
Minstrel Paddy Kerry will both perform on his own and provide Irish accompaniment to the band on his bodhrán (Irish frame drum). “I am at large throughout the festival,” Kerry said with a smile.
Food is another drawing card for the Saturday/Sunday event, which will be repeated with different themes every weekend this month. Food offerings will include such Ren Fest staples as turkey legs and scotch eggs, as well as tasty treats concocted by local vendors like Swift Level Fine (grilled) Meats, the Wild Bean coffee shop and Hawk Knob Cider and Mead.
Kieninger said she has issued some 200 passes for vendors and performers, so a good variety of entertainment, food and beverages is ensured for festival-goers to enjoy.
Something that might not be readily apparent to would-be attendees, however, Kieninger said, is just how kid-friendly the festival is.
“We have elephant rides and camel rides and unicorn rides,” she said. “And a petting farm, a dart game and other games — there’s even a playground up the hill near the music stage. You can see the jousts from there.”
Glassblowers, magicians, jugglers and acrobats will also be featured, along with artisans and merchants of every sort.
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The gates will open at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. every festival day — June 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30.
Admission is $16 for adults and $6 for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Children under 6 are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased online at wvrenfest.com or at the gate.
This first weekend of the 2019 festival has been designated as Warriors Weekend. Attendees are encouraged to dress up as historic warriors — barbarians, legionnaires, Vikings, etc. — and enter the costume contest. Admission on June 8 and 9 is free for active and retired military and first responders.
Future themes will include Pirates Landing (June 15 and 16) and Celtic Midsummer (June 22 and 23).
Hollow Hills Farm is at 23439 Midland Trail East, Lewisburg. Check out the map and get more information on the festival’s website.
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