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Close To Home: Join in the blast from the past at the Ren Faire

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By Erin Melwing

News Intern

Unlike anything else the county or surrounding area has to offer, the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival allows patrons to escape the 21st century and lose themselves in 14th century Scotland.

“The Renaissance experience allows you to escape from the stress and pressures of the current century and embrace things of old,” Regina De Caro, a Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival vendor of three years and herbalist, said. “It’s phenomenal.”

Set in Briarwood — a world of kings, wenches, pirates and thieves — the festival has something for everyone. Patrons can expect festival favorites such as the daily parade, hair braiding and face painting, games of skill such as archery, full-contact jousting shows, free craft stations for children, period and regular food, songs, skits and shows. More than 70 vendors, including 12 new vendors for the 2008 season, offer an assortment of hand-crafted items as well.

“I’m not much of a shopper,” Gretchen Witham, of Lexington, said. “I like the jousting. It was action packed and interesting.”

The full-contact jousting group, Fratelli Equestrian Arts, is a new addition to the 2008 season and originally is from Orlando, Fla. The group incorporates acrobatics into their acts.

Acrobatics were the group’s main focus until they added a jousting show to their circuit, according to Olissio Zoppe, Fratelli Equestrian Arts show director.

“It’s really good family entertainment and it’s nice to see everyone react and get involved,” Zoppe said.

In its third year, the festival is still growing.

“The owner has a really strong vision and we really believe in the product,” Karl Crose, of the “Nuttin’ But Mud” show, said.

So far, the festival has exceeded numbers from the previous year, according to Dave Henderson, also known as Mayor Andrew MacDonald, said.

“It’s going quite well,” John Panzarella, also known as Sheriff Shon MacIntyre, said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger each weekend.”

With a cast of 18 members that live their role and prepare year-round, patrons should expect that cast members will not break character and do everything they can to make it 14th century Scotland, Robert the Bruce, played by Karl Licht, said.

“People walk around and it’s like ‘m’lady’ and ‘m’lord,’” Sarah Conn, admissions cashier, said. “To show affection, people give you flowers.”

Patrons are encouraged to come in period costume and to be ready to pretend to be someone they are not, Rebekah Lay, also known as Piper MacVermin, said.

“Personally, I like the theatrics of it all,” Sophia Jannace, of Lexington, said.

For instance, Crose and Mia Seitz of the “Nuttin’ But Mud” mud show both have theatrical backgrounds and had always wanted to do mud, but had never had the opportunity before the festival opened three years ago. The interactive comedic mud show features mud-slinging, romance, belly-flops and more.

“It’s our summer job,” Seitz said. “Our goal is to have fun and everything past that is icing on the cake.”

Focused on family entertainment, the festival is geared for all ages and immerses patrons in a world unlike any other.

“It gives people insight into a different culture that they’re not going to see otherwise in Kentucky,” Tara Stephan, admissions cashier, said.

The upcoming holiday weekend is also tournament weekend at the festival. Also, this weekend is three for two weekend, admission is get three days for the price of two.

“It’s a full day of events for one price,” Panzarella said. “You can go from morning to close just seeing different shows.”

Bob Watters, also known as Captain Amos Muirhead, used words such as outstanding, exhilarating and irresistibly fascinating to describe the festival, yet patrons can only discover the magic of Briarwood for themselves.

The 2008 season runs weekends only through July 20 and is open rain or shine at the Renaissance Festival Grounds in Eminence. Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. An adult one day pass is $12 at the gate and a child one day pass is $6 at the gate. For more information, visit www.kyrenfaire.com.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.