If money is tight for a big trip this summer, you can still travel back in time to a 16th century France full of jousters, strolling minstrels, sword fights and more during the 14th annual St. Louis Renaissance Faire this weekend at Rotary Park in Wentzville.
Bob Stanza, president of the Renaissance Faire’s board of directors, said the Faire offers equal parts education and entertainment, with some enthralling elements.
“If they haven’t been there before, certainly they want to go see the jousting, because that’s something you’re typically not going to see (elsewhere),” he said.
Unlike the TV program “Full Metal Jousting,” where riders can take some vicious hits, the jousters here are trying to give people a show and still walk away unharmed.
“It’s called theatrical jousting, but it’s not like there’s no element of danger there,” Stanza said. “Any time you get on a horse and start riding toward somebody with a long wooden (lance) in your hand, things can and do happen. We’ve got two knights who are still rather pissed at each other from a couple years ago because one of them knocked the other's tooth out.”
This is the final weekend of the Faire’s four weekend run. With the exception of blistering heat Memorial Day weekend, the weather has cooperated and attendance has been solid.
“The reality is, people who go seem to enjoy it,” he said. “The biggest problem we have is getting the word out.”
The entertainment lineup included some national entertainers who travel the Renaissance Faire circuit. For instance, MooNiE the Magnificent, who does a silent, European style act including juggling, ropewalking and acrobatics, won an Internet-based Renaissance Entertainer of the Year award, Stanza said.
Chuvani, a troupe of belly dancers who perform with the Sheherazade Drums, are local but “are probably one of the best belly dancing groups
in the United States,” Stanza said. “You don’t want to miss them.”
The Faire is modeled after Lyon, France, which is a sister city with St. Louis, in 1520. The cast of 225 performers, including Stanza as the mayor, all have profiles so they can discuss their role in the 16th century community. Most of what they do is improvisational, and they like interacting with visitors. From first-time cast members to veterans, everyone is a volunteer.
“One of the things we try and teach the cast is there will be some people who really enjoy the interaction, some people who enjoy it for a brief bit but don’t really want to get into it too deeply, and there are others who would rather just walk around and look at it all take place, rather than be involved in it. (Cast members) need to learn to adjust based on that," Stanza said.
Faire is Geared Toward All Ages
The Faire is appropriate for all ages and is not “bawdy” like some Renaissance Faires can be, Stanza said. Children tend to buy into the
performances more than adults, believing in the magic and the spectacle. This is something that organizers keep in mind, which is why there are activities for youngsters throughout the seven different guilds, or theme areas, on the grounds.
“We’ve actually put activities in each one of them that are geared to kids,” Stanza said. “So in other words, you go up to the gypsy encampment and they teach kids to juggle. You go to the Celtic encampment and they’ve got a blacksmith there who can show kids how blacksmithing works.”
Children can also learn to make candles and even pick up tips on swordplay. Period crafts including pottery making, woodworking, blacksmithing, glass blowing, soap making and more will be demonstrated. Special events will address daily life in the 16th century – how people survived in a society without grocery stores, washing machines, refrigerators, advanced medicine and health care, running water or indoor plumbing.
“We want to give people an opportunity to learn about the way life was in Renaissance France from an interactive perspective that you just wouldn’t get from watching a movie and you’re not going to get from reading a book,” he said.
The Faire runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Rotary Park, Lions Lane off West Meyer Road, Wentzville. A wide variety of food and drink options are available for purchase, including traditional fare like turkey legs, kabobs and pulled pork plus rum, wine, beer and mead, and also traditional festival fare like burgers, hot dogs, lemonade, soda, water, popcorn and even fudge.
Tickets are $14.95 adults, $7.95 for children ages 6-13 and free for children 5 and under. Military, police, firefighters and seniors 65 and older get a $2 discount. Tickets are available at the gate or the Renaissance Faire Web site.
For more information, call 636-928-4141.