Located north of Charlotte, the Carolina Renaissance Festival is held annually on Saturdays and Sundays in October and November. The Festival, set in the fictional village of "Fairhaven" brings in 195,000 visitors on average, making it one of the largest Renaissance festivals in the country.
The Carolina Renaissance Festival was introduced in 1994 by Jeff Siegel, owner of parent company Royal Faires which also owns and operates the Arizona Renaissance Festival. The Carolina Renaissance Festival originally offered just six acres dedicated to entertainment but has since grown to offer twenty-five acres of attractions.
The top attractions include daily jousting tournaments (featuring the stunt group Aventail Productions), the Ancient Art of Falconry, and a Mermaid exhibit where mermaids can be seen swimming in a 3,000 gallon aquarium tank! All around the site there are plenty of performances and programs to fill your day. With 14 stages, there's never a dull moment. You can see live music, dance, comedy shows, and circus performers. Of course, musicians perform with traditional instruments. Some, like the harp and bagpipe, you may be familiar with. But you'll also discover some more obscure instruments characteristic to the period.
The Carolina Renaissance Festival also operates an in-house performance company featuring over 100 costumed characters who also interact directly with visitors at the fair, in an attempt to create a more authentic feel of a renaissance-era town and to help bring the "village" to life. The Carolina Renaissance Festival tries to create a truly interactive experiences that brings the "village" to life. That is why they have an in-house performance company with more than 100 costumed characters. Characters include "The Village Baker", "Tavern Keeper" and a trio of singing milkmaids. Many of the company live nearby in Concord, Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte. If you're so inclined to join, auditions are held every June.
Over 100 vendors sell a variety of handmade arts and craft goods such as handmade jewelry, artisan leather goods, blown glass made at live demonstrations, candles, and custom chain mail. The festival vends an assortment of medieval themed foods, including giant turkey legs, various soups, stews, and chowders served in "bread bowls", "Steak on a Stake", fish and chips, corn on the cob, and Scotch eggs.
Alongside the shops one can find games such as archery target-shooting, crossbow shooting, axe throwing, frog catapults and a gold coin hunt.
Weddings and vow renewal ceremonies are also held on site, with ceremonies attended by the cast of the Royal Court and a covered pavilion reserved for the couple.
In addition to the above, the festival has several mini-themed weekends throughout the course of the season such as the popular "Time Travelers Weekend" where costume players of all genres (science fiction, comic books, etc.) are invited to time travel to the renaissance. Other themes include BrewFest Weekend, Halloween Daze & Spooky Knights Weekend, and Pirate's Christmas Weekend. Opening Weekend is always celebrated with a buy one, get one free discount for adult admission (coupon required).
Cover image by Carolina Renaissance Festival. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.