WASHINGTON — The Maryland Renaissance Festival will transform Crownsville, Maryland, into the fictional village of Revel Grove in Oxfordshire, England for nine weekends until Oct. 22.
The annual family-friendly fair runs on weekends for almost two months and promises feasting, fun and fantasy with a 16th-century twist.
This year’s Renaissance Festival kicked off on Aug. 26 and will run Saturdays and Sundays in September and October until Oct. 22, as well as Labor Day Monday on Sept. 4.
Fair grounds are located at 1821 Crownsville Rd., Annapolis. Gates for the festival open at 10 a.m.
Visitors can buy tickets on-site or online; ticket windows at the festival open at 9:30 a.m.
Adult tickets (ages 16-61) cost $25, seniors tickets (ages 62+) cost $21 and children (ages 7-15) get in for $10. Children under 7 years old get in free and do not require a ticket.
Tickets for the first three weeks of the festival, until Sept. 10, are discounted. Adult tickets cost $19, senior tickets cost $17 and children’s tickets cost $8.
For pricing of two-day passes, season passes and other ticketing options, visit the Maryland Renaissance Festival website.
This year’s entertainment schedule includes Royal Court Events, which are performed once a day, and other planned performances and activities throughout the 11 stages in the fair.
What’s the hype about?
Revel Grove is lined with 140 shops of artisan jewelry, pottery, gifts and more as well as pubs and food vendors that boast dishes such as steak on a stake, smoked turkey legs and chicken on a lance, to name a few.
Since 1977, the festival brings acrobatics, jousting, stage fighting and more to its 11 stages throughout the 25-acre village.
Every year, the festival emulates a year under the rule of King Henry VIII, and this year, the storyline covers King Henry’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn and the subsequent drama that will ruin his marriage with Queen Catherine of Aragon.
“History buffs and people that love a good love triangle will enjoy this year’s storyline,” said Carolyn Spedden, the Renaissance Festival’s artistic director.
She added that while a lot of the acts and performances are repeated throughout the day, the re-enactment of the royal romantic drama, or Royal Court Events, are only performed once a day.
Spedden said that for first-time attendees, the diversity of things to do and acts to see is often a lot to take in.
“From symphonies to opera to theater to NASCAR, there tends to be a demographic for that. That’s not true at the festival,” said Spedden. “It’s very unusual, to see such a range of people come, from families, to single people to seniors. It’s a fun people-watching place because there are people with really different backgrounds and interests that come.”
Special to this year, the Royal Stage, where Royal Court events are performed, has been renamed to the Royal Fox Theatre in recognition of performer Johnny Fox; he holds the longest running solo performance at the Renaissance Fair.
This year is Fox’s 37th year performing as a sword-swallower, and the Maryland Renaissance Festivals holds an especially unique place in his heart.
“I have a lot of people that will be surprised to see me there,” said Fox. “A lot of people didn’t think I was going to make it, that I wouldn’t return to the fair.”
Before the festival’s opening day, Fox couldn’t walk for about two months and he was bedridden, undergoing treatment for liver cancer.
On Aug. 4, he received his certificate of health from the Arizona hospital where he was recovering. Much of Fox’s treatment was paid off by donations, a total of more than $55,000, to the Go-Fund Me page a friend of his started upon hearing the news of Fox’s health.
Many who donated were friends from the Renaissance Festival.
“I guess a lot of it I owe it to performing over all these years and the fans that I have in the Maryland and Virginia area.”
At the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Fox’s act is a staple. He says parents have been bringing their kids to see him for years, and come up to him after shows to tell him that’s it’s a tradition to come to the yearly fair to see him perform.
During the first weekend of this year’s festival, his 4:30 p.m. performance at the newly-named Royal Fox Theatre brought in crowds as he shared his story about the magic of believing before his usual jaw-dropping act.
“I’m so grateful for all the love and prayers and people saying ‘you’re gonna beat this’” said Fox. “But it’s not about kicking cancer’s ass. It’s about embracing it and letting go. Be fiercely optimistic, playful and loving: those three things I always keep in mind.”