I’ll be vending at this event in June, so stop out and see me at my Hooker Shop! I’m hosting a book signing there as well, if you’re looking for an opportunity to pick up a signed novel.
It’s always the scent that strikes me first.
Turkey legs, deep-fried pickles, chicken sandwiches and so many other delicious treats are being prepared for the busy day ahead. The aroma drifts on the breeze and mingles with that of leather and incense and fire and trees and dirt and I can taste the beauty of it all on my tongue as I walk in from the lot.
I’m hitching up my long, bright skirts and dragging my wagon filled with goods as I step through the side gates. To my left is King Henry’s camp and the group is sitting around a fire, cooking their breakfast as they murmur about yesterday and make plans for the day ahead, laughing as they begin to eat. Their tunics are tossed over the ropes that square off the boffer fighting pit (No. I won’t tell you what a boffer is. You’ll just have to come find out for yourself.) The stunning and ever-present white husky stretches out on the ground nearby, their blue-eyed guardian.
I step past the Pirate Captain, smile and nod good day to her as I continue down Gypsy Lane. Through the woods I see flames twirling through the air, and know the Fiend Fyre Charmers are lighting up for their act. Further down, the Gypsy Raqs are practicing a dance on their wooden stage, laughing and elbowing one another in jest. Merchants are opening their shops and we wave to each other and remark on the weather as we go about our work. Around the corner, I hear Sir Dan neighing for a snack or a pet on his noble brown head. Children of the cast and vendors are running up and down the lanes, half-in, half-out of their costumes and giggling furiously.
The trees whisper, rustling in the breeze as they reach for the sunshine above.
Sounds are becoming louder, rowdier; the music and laughter and voices blend into one harmonious melody as I turn to look out of my shop.
And – like Alice down the rabbit hole – I’ve fallen into an extraordinary new world.
It’s 11 a.m. and the gates have opened. Guests sweep in, some in costume and some in street clothes. Long, beautifully crafted skirts swish against the packed-dirt paths. Small children run, squealing to meet the mermaid or the Fairy Godmother. Evil Queen Lilith rubs her hands together, cackling hideously as she chooses the victim of her next spell. Gypsies gracefully shake their hips in time to music, twisting their bright scarves in the wind. Faeries Bloo and Pixx twitter their secrets to the Pied Piper while Klemm Flemm the Troll guards his bridge with a riddle. Oh! And look! Queen Anna and her court have arrived! (Quick! Curtsey!) Oh my! Is that….Prince Charming over there visiting with Pucker-Up Polly? Nelly Newsworthy will have fun with that little bit of gossip!
Down the lane, I can hear the blacksmith explaining his trade to interested passer-by. Guests stop to admire pirate hats and swords, medieval gowns and hand-fashioned jewelry for sale. Some take a crack at spinning wool on the old wooden wheel in the Viking Encampment.
I hear the faint strains of a harp in the distance.
It’s another time, another place. It’s fantasy come to life.
It’s the Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival, and it’s pure magic.
Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival originated in 2008, the brainchild of Vincent and Toni Knoll and two other partners. It is held in a beautiful forest where the roots – pun intended – run deep: this land has been in Toni’s family for well over one hundred years. With the help of many hands from both Toni and Vincent’s family and the Renaissance family, the woods were prepared for the magic to begin.
The first festival was held in October of 2008, and by 2010 Toni and Vincent had become the sole owners. In order to take advantage of steadier weather conditions, they decided to change the festival to June. Heartbreakingly, in the spring of 2011 Vincent became ill and just two days before opening day and at the far-too-young age of twenty-nine, he passed away. Vincent was a big guy with a generous heart, and before he passed he asked his mother to take his money and make the festival the best she could. Knowing how much Vincent hated the noise of generators in the woods during Fest, she used his money to install electricity in the forest. In this and in so many other ways, his memory lives on.
Now, about the festival – what’s so great about it? Oh my friends, I could go on and on. You like food? They’ve got food! Delicious, mouth-watering food! Stop by the Black Dragon Inn for turkey legs and soup bowls, Hickory Hut will be serving up their award-winning barbeque, and the Golden Gryffon Pub will be offering beer and wine as well as entertainment, such as the Pirates and Wenches band.
Once your belly is happy and full, stop by the various vendor shops filled with marvelous eye candy. From silversmith to stained glass, crocheted creations and beautiful jewelry, renaissance garb and leatherwork, you’ll certainly find something that strikes your fancy. As you’re strolling along the beaten path, pop over to one of the psychic and wellness vendors to learn what mystical secrets are in store for you.
The first time my family and I attended Mid-Michigan Renaissance Festival was the summer of 2011. We were thrilled to find a reasonably priced, family friendly festival so close to home. Walking in, there were signs at nearly every vendor shop paying homage to Vincent Knoll, who had just passed away. My soul was deeply touched to think these people from all different walks of life — many not even local – would stand together to show such respect for this man. But as I’ve gotten to know this little community better, I’ve come to realize they are more than friends, and more than just co-workers. These people have formed an extended family of their own, and this relationship only heightens the easy familiarity between cast members and merchants. Combined, it creates a welcoming atmosphere that draws guests right in to the Ren Fest family. At this time, Toni is the legal owner of the festival, but there are many others who own it in their hearts.
This year, the festival will be held the last three weekends in June, and each weekend will have its own theme. The first weekend, June 14th and 15th will be Fantasy and Steampunk, June 21st and 22nd will be Pirates and Wenches, and the last weekend, June 28th and 29th will be Viking and Gypsy weekend. Please keep in mind that just because there are themes doesn’t mean you must adhere to them, or even that you are required to dress up at all – just come out and have fun!
The sun is bright, the breeze is sweet, and your imagination is waiting.
Won’t you come join us?
Just remember…if Evil Queen Lilith catches you and begins to chant, it’s better to just close your eyes and wait until the spell has been cast. You’ll never get away from her….muahhaha.
Further information regarding admission, merchants, and entertainment can be found on the website at http://www.midmichiganrenfest.com.