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Georgia Renaissance Festival – Opening Weekend Review


For the past few years now, I have overheard family members exclaiming on how much fun they have had at the Renaissance Festival in Georgia. When the opportunity arose for me to finally share in the fun, I made plans to get myself up to Georgia and see what all the hype was about!

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Entrance

The Georgia Renaissance Festival (GRF) takes place in the spring, beginning on April 13th in Atlanta and running through June 2nd on the weekends. Bogo Tickets can be bought for about $25 for the opening weekend, so if you and a fellow knight or lady wish to journey back to 16th-Century you can do so on a budget.

However, while the tickets to get in are fairly cheap, the extravagance of your experience is entirely on you (although details on prices of various goods and “full medieval experiences” will be covered in ‘Surviving the Festival’ section of this article). So, if you want to fully immerse yourself in the medieval era than be prepared to have some deep pockets. However, it is entirely plausible to go to GRF and not break the royal bank.

Travel Back in Time to 16th-Century Shenanigans and Extravagance!

GRF is set within a residential area, but once you enter you would never think twice about it. The festival itself is tastefully constructed with fachwerk buildings, stone-erected drinking halls, bier gardens and thatched-roof cottages. The entire grounds of Newcastle are arrayed in a series of areas: Old Towne, Royal Highlands and Queen’s Garden, all set within a big oval. You enter through the front gate but, if you arrive before the gates open, you are already in for a treat by a performance of exotic belly dancers, as well as musical players that include a head-banging lute player, and a warm welcome by the king and queen themselves.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Entrance Fountain

Amongst the crowd is Ladies and Sirs who colorfully comment and are openly talkative with guest that are willing to join-in on the immersion, for while King Henry VII was welcoming us, a lady in red standing by me was expressively voicing her opinion on the whole matter.

Lady or Sir, Dress the Part!

Throughout the GRF you are bound to walk by a stall that is decked-out in medieval outfits of various types and colors. Everything from tunics, cloaks, linen-shirts, bag hats, coifs, cornets, surcoats, treassours and more are there for procuring! I highly advise that if you did not come prepared with a cosplay that you opt to stop by one of these stalls as soon as you enter in order to look the part.

If dressing traditional isn’t your thing, there’s also stalls where you can get your hair-braided or your face painted, mount devil horns or unicorn horns on yourself, elf-ears, fairy-wings and other various mystical gear. Have you always wanted to dress-up like a plague doctor? How about a gun-wielding steampunk? A rebellious pirate? A staff-hefting wizard? Well, you most definitely can!

Sights, Smells and a Real Unicorn?!

Georgia Renaissance Festival - GargoyleBe enamored by the sight of knights decked-out in full-fledged armor, plague doctors, lady’s in historically accurate wimples under long steeple headdresses, donning intricately-embroiled, velvety gowns. The less traditional Night’s Watch rangers, fairy queens, steampunk wearers, hobbits and more. I kept having to stop and observe many of the wonderful cosplayers and their outfits, one involved a dragon-themed-geared knight in red and black, as well as a lady wearing a beautiful peacock-themed medieval gown, as well as the rest of her family similarly dressed to match. There was also a witch balancing an axe, a phenomenally cosplayed gargoyle, the village fool that you can pose with (and who you should charitably tip). I even spied a comically unnerved fairy in pink.

Show wise, there’s a number of them. One including Barley Balanced, a trio with the comedic act of attempting to balance on props and each other with hilarious commentary that had me chuckling throughout. The stunts they performed were incredible, one involving holding a ladder while the other performer stood on the second-to-last rung and both juggling at the same time. I only wished I could had viewed their more in-depth performances later in the evening, especially the one involving fire juggling.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Barley Balanced

Another show involves Ded Bob, a humorous skeleton puppet. Cu Dubh is everything a Viking enthusiast wants, with deep-throated chanting and pounding drums. How about some falconry? How about the singing Victoria Van Arnam as she narrates expressive tunes of drinking and Victorian-related activities? Washing Well Wenches is an act that gets the crowd involved in comedic skits of a participant being made to drink liquor while the crowd watches in full-blown hilarity.

The Rated PG show of the Tortuga Twins had them narrating the story of Little Red Riding Hood by participants as well, but Little Red Riding Hood was a sweet-looking grandma, the Grandma was a younger lady with a sexual emphasis that was exaggerated by one of the twins (while her husband got it all on camera while shaking his head) and the wolf was a teenager who did a pretty excellent howl. To be honest, if they had picked me I probably would had died right there on the stage due to fright, but throughout I could see that the Twins were excellent on reassuring the participants and instructing them on what they needed to do. In fact, Little Red Riding Hood was seated in the shade when she wasn’t participating, so if your concerned about standing up on stage for an extended period of time, they are absolutely aware of your personal comfort throughout (health wise, I can’t speak for your ego though).

There’s also glass-blowing tutorial presentations on how to create your own blow-glass creations as well as a lady who hand-shapes glass into intricate creations. Always wanted to learn how to juggle, write calligraphy, learn how to weave on a loom or forge a sword? You can learn by attending one of these booths or shows to get a beginner’s guide and hands-on experience.

Spinning Thread

There’s African storytelling and a band performance that was wonderful to watch. There’s Zoltan the Adequate, who managed to swallow a long balloon, hypnotist and Birds of Prey show. If you have any small kids, they would probably love Gypsy Geoff and his puppets. After watching any of theses performances though, it is strongly encouraged to donate an amount to the performers, for while watching the shows are free, tips are greatly appreciated.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Kira the UnicornThere’s a petting zoo where you can pet all sorts of little critters, from cute bunnies to curious goats. However, the ultimate experience is being able to pet Kira the pony—ahemunicorn! Yes, after saying a friendly hello to Kira’s keeper I was allowed the privilege (with the help of some of Kira’s favorite food) to pet her and get a picture taken next to her. I would note that, for any parent that might be a bit wary of Kira and their small munchkin’s hide, Kira is very docile, and she is standing securely in her stall, so she is perfectly safe and did not make a move to nibble on me. And if a unicorn is not to your fancy, how about riding a camel? You also have the opportunity to pet an adorable Irish wolfhound or noble basset hound or feed a cockatoo.

Lastly, near a forge you can sit on the Iron Throne, if you so desire…

The ultimate performance is the jousting show, where knight’s hefting colorful lances gallop hard to catch thrown-rings. Also, an acrobatic performance of men nimbly astride the cantering horse, stirrup-free, while only holding onto the horn as they leap up and around the horse in agile movements that were nail-biting to behold.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Joust

The jousting itself is what you expect, knights in armor racing headlong down the arena and striking against the other’s small shield (no tilt barrier though, at least at the one show I went to). You want a spot at the fence, for not only is the jousting great to watch up-close, but there’s hilarious commentary and verbal sparring between the performers and you’d want to hear every bit of it.

Surviving the Festival

Let’s face it, Georgia is in the Deep South and there is no ocean breeze to temper that heat. As soon as we stepped out of our machine-carriage we layered on sunscreen. I dressed in a light blue tank-top, shorts, college-hat and sunglasses (although I made a bad decision in wearing flip flops). You should wear closed-toed shoes, since GRF is outside and you will be stepping amongst creepy-crawleys, hiking up some steep pathways and, perhaps, mounting atop a desert steed to galivant around a calming circle to get a clear view of wares that had passed your notice.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Map (front)

I would also suggest bringing a nifty, small-sized backpack to store purchased wares in and to keep your purse or wallet secure. Lastly, there are no water fountains located in GRF, so do keep that in mind when planning out your budget. Although, I will say being creative about that backpack your bringing with you is key to a better experience. I cannot stress enough that, whether its overcast or sun-blaring, you should be consuming tons of water. Also, be aware that when you do need to empty that tank of yours, your option is using porta-potties.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Map (back)

If you wish to stay the full day do be aware that a lot of princesses, princes, sirs, ladies, court fools and their fellows are there as well. So, when you go to leave GRF you might find yourself in heavy traffic, really heavy traffic. However, a lot of the really cool events are scheduled (such as the Barley Balance Fire Finale, the Tortuga Twins Rated “R” Show!, and Joust to the Death) in the later hours of the day so if you really need to be home by a certain time, be sure to leave with enough time to avoid that traffic headache. We ended-up leaving around 3, and had no issues getting out. But we did miss some of the more extravagant shows and jousting tournaments.

Witches’ Sphere’s, Fairy Wings and Devil’s Horns Oh My!

Purchasing-wise, there are a ton of goods to choose from. Everything from moonstone rings, forge-made swords, handcrafted miniature trebuchet catapults, unicorn paintings, pet dragons, exquisite tapestries of Waterhouse paintings or a cat-headed Queen Elizabeth I, Viking drinking horns, fairy wings, glass-blown witches’ balls, wizard wands, mage crystal spheres, sterling-silver wiccan pendants, medieval coinage, glass-blown dragons, ocarinas and more.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - TapestriesIf you’re a literature fiend like myself, you might want to head on over and purchase yourself some medieval books, histories and biographies. In the same shop you would find beautiful calligraphy pens, leather-bound journals and beautifully, hand-drawn phrases/quotes ranging from Shakespeare to Tolkien, if that’s your fancy (although I didn’t spy any Chaucer-related text, which was a little disappointing). There’s an entire stall filled with wonderfully leather-bound journals with Gaelic runes or Thor’s hammer etched beautifully on the front covers. Heck, you can even purchase hand-cured butter, bread, delicious fresh garlic and honey to lively-up your cooking when you get back home.

Again, be prepared that if you want the “full extravagance” be prepared to raid your coffers. A wooden-sword for your little jester will cost you about $10, while a wonderfully hand-forged bastard sword cost around $300. Those adorable little pet dragons folks have mounted on their shoulders cost about $30, as well as the Viking drinking horn cost around $70. If you have always desired to be like your favorite wandering-wizard and purchase yourself a pipe, be on guard to spend upwards of $30, not taking into account whether its detailed in love-knots or not.

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Ax Balancing WitchI had bought a sterling silver unicorn ring to capture the memory of petting Kira, costing me $15. Giving her hay to eat while I got to pose with her cost me about a $1. However, an emerald-locket silver ring I was eyeing cost around $25. Of course, this doesn’t take into account if you want to dress the part and are spending upwards of $80 to do so. Although, you can opt for the fairy wings for as little as $15.

This doesn’t include the food you purchase from vendors. A beef guiro cost me $7 bucks. If you want to be really merry, you can buy tankards and beer to fill them, upwards of $20, or more depending on whether you bought a wooden one or a silver one.

While these were the general prices, I’m sure they are bound to change and, again, you determine how extravagant you want to be and this list of prices should not deter you from attending.

Final Reflections on Journeying Back in Time

In finality, I only wish I had gone a second day, or gone multiple weekends for there is so much to see and do at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. If you’re making the trip be sure to try to attend at least two days, for you can’t see all the shows or participate in all the activities in one, there’s just not enough time to do so. I had way too much fun and definitely want to attend the festival to participate in more shows or classes, maybe a profession in loom-weaving or forging is in my future?

So, don’t hesitate if you’re in the area! Go back in time and experience the 16th-Century for yourself!

Georgia Renaissance Festival - Village Idiot

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