RenFest kicks off 21st year with more of everything

Jim Pierson

The Carolina Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace will kick off its annual fall run on Saturday by unveiling the biggest improvements, rearrangements and additions of new attractions since the event was founded in 1994.

All the traditional elements remain: circus performers, peasant-powered rides, bawdy humor, giant turkey legs, elaborate costumes, handmade arts and crafts, music, dance and – of course – plenty of ale.

But this year’s Renaissance Festival is bigger and better, says founder Jeff Siegel, who has spent the last year coming up with improvements and attractions like a new centrally located Edgewood Theatre and Queen’s Kitchen Food Court, along with five new artisan and craft booths.

The theater, which will feature international touring acts, is situated in a newly created 5-acre village of vendors and attractions (including pony rides).

At the food court, you’ll find a bakery, chocolate shop, food carts and everything menu items like meat on a stick, Scotch eggs, gelato, jerky, sausage and peppers on a biscuit and a caprese sandwich.

Siegel says the food court should take pressure off other concession areas and greatly reduce wait times. It’s among a number of ways his team has looked to reduce lines and wait times for the more than 200,000 people who attend the festival each year.

In 2014, a second entrance was created to help the flow of traffic into the parking lots. This year, four new box office booths will open to reduce wait times for event-day ticket purchasing.

New to the RenFest?

Imagine the seeds of Cirque du Soliel sown in a medieval marketplace wedged between European villages.

Or, as Siegel explains: “It’s like a Monty Python movie come to life.”

For proof, just check out new-for-2015 acts like the royal court jesters of Fool Hearty, the wet and wacky Washing Well Wenches, and the belly dancers of Roses of the Realm – in addition to acrobats, fairies, musicians, daredevils, jousters and comedians who roam the grounds.

There’s a historical re-enactment aspect to the proceedings, Siegel says, “but we’re not Williamsburg. We’re not a museum. There’s an element of fantasy. And if you’re just sick of the presidential election, you can come find out what a benevolent monarchy is like.”

Carolina Renaissance Festival

When: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 22.

Where: 16455 Poplar Tent Road, Huntersville.

Tickets: $24; $12 for ages 6-12; kids 5 and younger admitted free. Save $1 purchasing in advance. Discounts for seniors and military families.

Details: 877-896-5544; www.carolina.renfestinfo.com.