With only a month left to go before the opening of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, you can be assured that there is plenty happening behind the gates to prepare for your arrival. The grounds crew is hard at work making sure every area is lush with flowers and greenery. Many vendors have already begun to arrive on site to freshen up their booths. Over the coming weeks, some of our stage performers will settle in, utilizing the time to practice their acts so they shine for our guests. Everyone is hustling so that the 2022 season of ORF will be the best yet!
But even so, there are a few misconceptions that every renaissance festival has to battle against. Knowing the facts from an insider can help you relax and enjoy your visit to our festival year after year. Let’s take a look at some of the misconceptions about the ren faire versus the reality you may not know.
5) The faire is just one big shopping mall.
The Ohio Renaissance Festival is a modern reflection of what an actual village faire would be like in 1572. During these faires, people would have brought out their crafts, goods, and livestock to display for sale. ORF is proud to continue this tradition by helping to showcase crafters and artisans who have spent years honing their work. Many of our vendors are helping to keep history alive simply by doing what they love. This isn’t just some outdoor shopping mall. It’s living craftsmanship happening before your eyes!
And if shopping isn’t your thing, our faire has seventeen stages packed full of shows for you to attend! We have musicians, jugglers, acrobats, animal displays, stunt performers, martial combat, dance troupes, foods from across the world, 17 different pubs, games of skill & chance, and human-powered rides. Not to mention every weekend has special events like Pirate Playtime, Fairy Picnic, Highland games, and more. So don’t underestimate our capacity to entertain you.
4) It’s just for nerds and history buffs.
It’s true that ren faires are heavily ingrained in geek culture. In fact, it’s something we are quite proud of! But the renaissance festivals are for everyone! It just depends upon what interests you. Are you looking for an excuse to wear that cosplay you spent hundreds of hours building? Do you want to bring your DnD group out for a one-shot on the grounds? We’ve got you covered. Maybe you’re just looking for a place to take the family next Saturday. Or perhaps you want to meet up with your buddies somewhere more interesting than the usual bar. Maybe you’d like to receive a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth 1st or get yourself a sword to hang on the wall.
Or maybe you just have a massive crazing for turkey legs and funnel cakes. No matter why you come, there is something at the Ohio Renaissance Festival for everyone to enjoy. You may be surprised at how much you get involved with the culture of faire. All you need to do is come find out for yourself.
3) You have to dress up in period-correct clothing.
It would be unrealistic to expect every guest that comes in the gates to be dressed up in full garb! The only people required to look like they belong in a late 16th-century rural village are those who work there like the cast, staff, or vendors. We do have 9 themed weekends to help inspire you to live your best life and join in on the fun. From pirates to Vikings, steampunk to Scottish, we invite people to diversify and wear the outfits that make them happy. ORF also has a bevy of guests that come dressed in cosplay or in garb from different eras of history. We welcome you to come and show off what brings you joy, though we do ask that our guests remember that this is a family festival.
Beyond that our lovely visitors are welcome to come as they are. Our best suggestion would be comfortable footwear, loose clothing, and sunscreen. ORF runs from Labor Day weekend through the last weekend in October. Check the weather for Harveysburg, OH for the weekend you intend to visit and dress appropriately.
2) The joust is ‘fake’ and uses choreography.
Believe it or not, jousters are not a unanimous group. Some joust troupes may be performers who spend months in rehearsals practicing horse care, stunt combat, acting, and more to choreograph a show that will play out for audiences three times a day for years to come. Others pride themselves on recreating historically accurate jousts, trying to make their performance as close to the original knights as possible. Still, other troupes could best be described as athletes who are participating in a competitive sport. They have practices, matches, games, tournaments, and meet-ups that help them hone their skills in all areas.
Regardless of how each joust troupe defines itself, none of them are ‘fake’. A kick from a horse is gonna hurt whether you are a stunt performer or an athlete. The weeks of practice and training are very real no matter if it is a stage act or a competition. Once you get down to the nitty-gritty of it you begin to see that jousting across the board takes a degree of dedication from those who participate. The Ohio Renaissance Festival prefers jousting troupes that are dubbed ‘full-contact’, meaning that the matches happen just as you see them. This year’s jousting troupe, Combatant’s Keep practices like any athlete should, but once those horses start down the list there is no predicting what will happen next.
1) After-hours is a wild bacchanal.
It’s not. It’s just not. And the explanation is quite a simple one. We’re all very tired! From performers to cast, vendors to staff, most of us have been awake since 6 am or earlier. The entire day is spent devoted to creating the most wonderful experience possible for our guests. Every show has to be on point. Every meal must arrive hot and ready. Every song on pitch and every encounter something that you, the patron, will remember for the rest of your life. Everyone at ORF is devoted to creating the best day ever and by the time the gates are closed, we have been on our feet and on the stage for fourteen hours or more. And the best part is that we’re going to get up tomorrow and do it all over again. Why? Because we love it.
What really happens is we clean up, change into regular clothes, grab a bite to eat, and sit around with friends for a nice chat. I think the wildest thing I ever saw was when one of the vendors set up a projector screen and streamed the newest episode of Dr. Who for everyone. At heart, we’re a bunch of geeks playing dress-up, and when the show is over we want to relax so we can play again tomorrow. The performer’s area even has an 11 pm lights out rule because juggling fire takes a lot of focus and you need a good night’s sleep to do it right! So if you’re imagining a crazy party behind the gates after the customers are gone, I’m afraid that’s well clear of the contented reality.
The renaissance festival is its own unique place. It occupies a liminal space between fantasy and reality, history and revisionist that has become cemented in the hearts of people for decades. Those who return year after year calls the Ohio Renaissance Festival home and know it better than anyone. Each time you cross the threshold you allow yourself to participate in a wonderful story with no knowledge of how it will end. So in 2022, we invite you to come out and play with us. There’s always room for one more.