With 132 daily performances featuring 49 different shows on 17 stages with over 100 cast members, the 33rd annual Ohio Renaissance Festival is practically bursting at the seams with entertainment.
The 16th century village is back for weekends through Oct. 30 offering shopping at 166 locations, food and drink, and wondrous fantasy experiences around every corner.
Cheryl Bucholtz, the festival’s longtime marketing director, said attendance records were broken last year.
“Last season was incredible,” said Bucholtz. “Our attendance was unprecedented. We experienced crowds totaling more than 200,000. Having the number of guests that we did, we quickly realized the customer experience had to be the main focus for this year.”
A major change guests will notice right away is there will no longer be parking fees upon entering. It is far more convenient to get in and eases traffic backups into the park that occurred last year. Changes to State Route 73 have also been made to accommodate an easier turn. Grab and go food stands have been added as well to one of the most varied food and beverage lists you can find at an attraction.
“Updates for this year are focused on a better customer experience,” said Bucholtz. “There is no parking fee. There is an additional front gate entrance to scan tickets in faster. New attractions this year include an area for the Cincinnati Barbarians, a new jousting troupe and a designated driver program.”
The ticket price was increased slightly by $3 on each adult ticket to accommodate not charging for parking. Tickets are now $28 for adults, $10 for children ages 5 to 12 and free admission for children under five.
Organizers believe it’s a small price to pay to enjoy incredible entertainment. Highlights: Full Armored Joust with real knights in shining armor, doing battle in three jousting tournaments each festival day; Cincinnati Barbarians doing the equivalent of Renaissance MMA; Theatre In The Ground (a.k.a. The Mudde Show) presenting literary classics with a comedic twist performed in Ohio’s only Muditorium where comedy meets Earth; and The Kamikaze Fireflies specializing in dangerous feats and comedic stunts.
According to Bucholtz the Ohio Renaissance Festival is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the country. She believes based on the size of the site and the number of attendees they are close to being in the top five.
She also noted the 35-acre park routinely sees guests coming to visit from almost all 50 states each year.
What has people coming back year after year? Bucholtz believes it’s the fantasy.
“I think it’s the suspension of reality,” she said. “I often tell people that Disney has Imagineers, and we have ‘Reality Suspenders.’ You walk through these gates and you can escape for a while to a time less hurried and enjoy the day with family and friends.”
Upcoming themed weekends include Pirates Weekend (Sept. 17, 18), Highland Weekend (Sept. 24, 25), Time Travelers Weekend (Oct. 1, 2), Viking Weekend (Oct. 8, 9), Romance Weekend (Oct. 15, 16), Feast of Fools (Oct. 22, 23), and Tricks or Treats (Oct. 29, 30).
Just as there are thrills and adventure that await, there is also love. So far there are 42 couples who will be exchanging vows at Will Nilly on-the-Wash, the name of the town that guests are transported to as they enter the gates.
To guests walking through the gates looking for escapades, quests and performances, the amount of work that has to be put in behind the scenes may get lost. In addition to great attention given to the spaces and structures within the park to ensure authenticity, cast members are aware their participation requires a great deal of commitment, knowledge, study and hard work. The actors and performers portray historical figures and are dedicated to knowing their roles in and out.
“I spent about a year researching my character, Erszebet Báthory, before deciding to portray her and I am still learning more about her and her life all the time,” said actress Morgan Egbert. “It took about a year from concept sketch to final fitting for my garb to come together but I am so in love with it that it was all worth it. Court garb is expensive and heavy and can be very uncomfortable, but as they always say, beauty is pain. It takes me about 20 minutes to get dressed in everything and I need assistance at times.”
Egbert also acknowledges the challenge of maintaining historical composure, but enjoys the festival’s whimsical, audience-friendly impact.
“Court is not easy,” she said. “You have to essentially become a princess, a historian, a talking head, a teacher, and the Queens hype man all at once. For me, what makes it all worth it is the magic we create by bringing history to life. All of court is made up of historical characters – people who actually existed at the time. Watching people’s faces light up – especially little kids – when they see the glowing court approaching will never get old to me. I’ll never get tired of little girls oohing and aahing at my gems and jewelry. The interactions with other cast members and patrons are what make it all worth it to me.”
With so much to learn, take in and see Bucholtz says planning your day is important to maximize fun and not miss out.
Here are some suggestions from Bucholtz and her team on maximizing your day at the Renaissance Festival.
• Arrive early: Gates open at 9:30 a.m.
• Buy online: Skip the line and buy in advance.
• Pace yourself: It’s more than 30 acres of walking and loads of entertainment to soak up. Check the website for the show schedule and plan ahead.
• Check the weather: Be aware of the forecast and dress appropriately.
• Hydrate: Water is key and so is sunscreen.
• Bring cash: As the website shares: “Our faire has gotten pretty popular over the last few years. As we work on updating our electronic capabilities, please make sure to bring a bit of cash with you to help keep transactions smooth. We do have ATMs on property located at Market Square, Bard’s Lane, Troll Crossing, and Gamer’s Grove. But you can avoid the lines if you already have a little on hand for food, drink, and purchases. Remember that you can buy Special Event Tickets online until 4 p.m. on Friday before the festival day as well as at the Special Event booth on the grounds.”
• Have fun: That’s the point, so try to let loose and enjoy.
“Last year really showed us how much people love to attend this festival,” said Bucholtz.
With records broken last year Bucholtz believes 2022 is destined for even greater successes.
Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
What: Ohio Renaissance Festival
When: Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 30
Where: Renaissance Park in Harveysburg. Located just minutes off I-71, exit 45 or I-75, exit 38 on State Route 73 in Warren County.
Tickets: $28 (adults), $10 (kids aged 5-12), $80 (adult season pass). Children 5 and younger get in free.
More info: www.renfestival.com