You Joust, M'Lord

Renaissance festivals allow you to hobnob with the likes of Olga, a fictional farm girl played by Web designer Sarah Hanafourde. Dressed in appropriately sweet garb, toting a yoke with empty milk buckets, and calling out to her pretend cow, Helga, who wandered off, Olga is among the many characters dispatched by The Royal Chessmen to interact with the public during this weekend's Redland Renaissance Faire.

Made up of actors from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the 25-year-old nonprofit group can be seen at various events presenting eye-catching spectacles such as live chess games, which involve enchanting stories and plenty of rough-and-tumble action. When one piece tries to take over an opponent's position, the chessboard clears and the two characters square off for a choreographed duel that may include swords, daggers, clubs, and chains. Even frying pans and crate hooks have been utilized in the rumble, according to Burt Adams, a Miami Lakes performer who wields a two-handed, six-foot sword. "It can be very acrobatic," he says. "The crowd kind of likes hearing the metal clashing."

Other notables doing their thing this weekend will include King Henry VII as portrayed by Royal Chessmen president Brad Hanafourde, a Miami lawyer and father of Sarah, plus a candlemaker and pubkeepers. Among the other Renaissance-era entertainers: musicians, dancers, jousters, comedians, and storytellers. Also, festival folks will build a castle made of canned foods. Attendees who contribute a canned item (to be donated to a community organization) receive a dollar off admission.

Speaking of funds, individual performers aren't paid. All fees go back to the organization's expenses. But there are plenty of other rewards. "You [can] act like a total goof in front of people," says Travis Brister of Broward County. "People just soak up all that performance you're giving."

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Patti Roth
Contact: Patti Roth