Scheduled to take place February 5 through March 20 at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, the Florida Renaissance Festival celebrates the Middle Ages with medieval-themed traditions and live entertainment. There have been tweaks to the format over the years — including adding the Harry Potter-themed weekend and removing the cleavage contest — but the spirit remains the same.
Here are eight things to look forward to at the festival, including the costumes and joust stunt show.
Chalices and gobletsThese gaudy cups aren't just for pimps and the wine at church. Bring your own or buy one at the many on-site shops, including Fellowship Foundry and Ye Olde Wizards and Dragons. They're perfect for drinking mead, a fermented honey beverage that's a festival staple.
CannonsWhat can one say? Some of us still get excited by things that go boom. The festival kicks off with a cannon shot in the morning and closes with another at sunset. In between, the historical re-enactment group behind the cannon, known as Keepers of the Peace, puts on a demonstration. For more kicks, the festival also offers a trebuchet catapult demonstration.
Medieval music and comedyYou probably won't find any harps, fiddles, or bagpipes on a Renaissance fest fan's year-end Spotify Wrapped, but we're all for them at a Renaissance festival. Throw in a few flutes too. The more it sounds like we're playing a Zelda game, the better. Scheduled to perform at this year's fair are Wolgemut, which incorporates all of the aforementioned instruments into its music, Italian pipe and drum ensemble Rota Temporis, and Celtic band the Reelin' Rogues. And don't forget the comedy acts. Back again is the improv show The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told and Second City musical director Arne Parrott's one-man show.
Myths and magic weekendFor those who prefer their medieval with a side of magic, there's the Potter's Magical Finale weekend on March 19-20. The themed weekend is one of seven during the festival, with themes such as pirates, Vikings, and steampunk. Attendees of Potter's Magical Finale weekend are encouraged to dress as fairies, elves, imps, ogres, sirens, and — if you couldn't already tell from the name of the weekend — a certain boy wizard.
Festival foodLook, it's not hard to score a turkey leg around these parts. They sell them at a bunch of South Florida fairs. But there's something about noshing on a turkey leg at a Renaissance festival that feels right. Other traditional options at the festival include gyros, falafel, pulled pork, corn dogs, Italian sausages, and caramel apples. If you want to try something a little more unique to the renaissance festival, there's the shepherd's pie or Scotch egg (a boiled egg wrapped in pork that has been breaded and fried). You won't find that at Santa's Enchanted Forest.
Quirky costumesThere are few places better for people-watching than a Ren fest. That's due to all the guests and staff proudly parading around the park in medieval and mythical costumes, from muffin caps and cloaks to bodices and pointy ears. But the costumes serve more than just an aesthetic purpose. These outfits set the mood for the event and help transport you to another place and time. It's highly recommended that you dress in costume if you attend the festival, but it's not required. Seriously, though: dress up.
Joust stunt showThe days of dueling competitors obliterating each other with lances at high speeds are no more. The whole thing was too primitive — even for a renaissance festival. Now the joust is a stunt show with trick-riding and chariot races. There are storylines (winner gets the girl, er, princess), and there are designated good and bad guys, kind of like what you'd see in WWE. Audiences don't seem to mind. The joust continues to be the renaissance festival's most popular event.
Animatronic dragonsNew this year is this animatronic display featuring more than a dozen dragons. The dragons measure up to 20 feet long and were created by Dino Don Inc., which you might have seen featured on Shark Tank last year. These winged monsters roar, slither, flap their wings and sing — yes, sing. What, you think Figment is the only dragon that can carry a tune?
Florida Renaissance Festival. Saturday, February 5, through Sunday, March 20, at Quiet Waters Park, 401 S Powerline Rd., Deerfield Beach; 954-776-1642; ren-fest.com. Tickets cost $14 to $32; children 5 and younger get in free.