Travelogue: The Kansas City Renaissance Festival
Where can you find Toys ARRRRR Us? At the Kansas City Renaissance Festival! Every Fall, thousands of people join to celebrate the delusion that the good old days from the 14th to 17th centuries were romantic and brave. You’ll find re-enacted, with more emphasis on fun than historical accuracy, the kings, queens, and jesters of the monarch system. Despite the emphasis on Europe, to my delight, as the parade that wound through the grounds arrived at the jousting field, they called out “God save the King”, “Long live the Queen”, but also “All hail Nubia” for the African royalty in the procession.
The center of the fun is the costuming. Dozens of actors portray old-timey knights, courtiers, and performers, but the crowds who flock to the KC Ren Fest come dressed in costume as well. Parking is free and while queuing to buy tickets you are serenaded with madrigal music. The grounds are extensive, with more than 25 stages for performances, and vendors selling turkey legs and modern desserts like cheesecake and ice cream never more than a few minutes’ walk away. Unlike many street fairs, where vendors sullenly sit and glare at you, the goods being sold are thematic, adding to the fun, and the merchants eager to call out “Hear Ye, Hear Ye!” You can buy wax candles, clay sculpture, fantasy costumes, and weaponry. Our favorite was a fantasy-themed set of metal statues that also served as fountains. We were disappointed to see palm reading and astrology on site. No one should pay money to have someone talk them out of making their own decisions in life with some story about fate, and waiting instead of taking action to repair ones problems. Fortunately, few people seemed interested and we saw no lines there.
We caught portions of several events just strolling around the grounds, including jugglers, fire eaters, magicians, and comedy acts. As is usual for renaissance fairs, the quality of the acts varied and the real fun is sharing the experience and interacting with the friends you came with, and with the performers on stage, all of whom were good at involving the audience and then asking for tips at the end of their show. Acts were often geared to children, but still fun for adults. The music and dance numbers and the magic were the most captivating. Just inside the entrance, delightful faerie creatures straight from Shakespeare danced and frolicked.
The act that you must see is the jousting. You sit along an arena and watch knights on horseback compete against standing targets and each other, while assistants work up the crowd into cheering their favorites. The arena is small, but the size didn’t seem to affect the quality of the show, and the smaller size allowed everyone sitting to have a good view and a chance to hear the few actors without microphones. I’ve been to renaissance fairs across the country and theirs was perhaps the funniest! They had great comedy and camaraderie.
The fun that the paid actors are having transforms what might be just a series of shows into a warm, family experience that as visitors you are welcomed into. You can easily spend an entire day there, and return again to have a completely different experience. I was grateful to the clear signposts throughout the grounds, helping us get to where we needed to go. I found the booklet hard to read, though, as the acts did not have descriptions and I had to manually correlate act names with locations and then try to find the stages on the map. However, the food was delicious and came in a good variety, and food spots were spread all over instead of being located in just one place. One apple dumpling I sampled (apple pie and ice cream) was so delicious that I left my friends and hunted down the spot for a second helping! Alcohol is available too if you feel that makes your day better. Bathrooms were readily available everywhere, also.
If you have kids, or if you can wrap your mind around people who costume when it’s not Halloween, you must experience the happy energy of the KC Ren Fest. Check their website www.kcrenfest.com for themed events and make a plan in advance for the shows you most favor. But you really cannot go wrong just strolling without much of a plan, which is what we did.
The KC Renaissance Festival is highly recommend, 5 out of 5 stars!