Austinites Leave 2020 for the Middle Ages at Renaissance Festival

Malvika Pradhan, Staff Writer

The Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF), the largest festival in the country took place this year from Oct. 3 to Nov. 9. The festival was started in 1974 by George Coulam, who also started the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and is currently in its 46th season. The festival is meant to be set during Renaissance times, so attendees wear costumes and speak Middle English. There are many activities to do at the fair, including watching jousting tournaments and solving an escape room adventure.

The festival has specific plays and activities just for kids. Marlena Solomon, the marketing communications manager at the Texas Renaissance Festival, said there is an activity for every age. 

There are over 400 vendors, including artisans and foods from around the world such as Italy, England, Germany, France and Poland to name a few,” Solomon said. “There are over 20 stages with world-class musicians and performers and a joust arena where jousting activities take place four times a day and full armored combat takes place twice a day. There is literally something for everyone at the festival – families with young children, teenagers, seniors, couples.”

Solomon said that having a renaissance festival is important because there is a strong bond between festival-goers. Since the festival is the largest in the country, Solomon said people from all over Texas and the U.S. attend.

“For many people, the festival is a home away from home and a second fair family,” Solomon said. “It is really a strong community both for the participants and patrons, such as TRF ambassadors, clans at the campground and other online groups who have regular meetups during the festival or camp together.”

The LASA Choir attends the festival almost every year. Choir Director Deric Lewis said that while the students go to have fun, they also compete in different singing competitions. 

There is a madrigal competition which is for a smaller ensemble, so it’s still period music,” Lewis said. “There’s also a smaller ensemble group and a larger ensemble group, so we’ve done all three: madrigals, small ensemble and large ensemble.”

Junior Devon Hobbs said she really likes going as part of the choir. She said they get to spend a lot of time doing a wide variety of different activities, like arts, crafts and sports.

“Most of the time, we get at least five or six hours to just do whatever. Bring money, buy stuff and they have a lot of interesting food there,” Hobbs said. “I had cheesecake on a stick last time, which was fun. They have a lot of things that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Lewis said he thinks the students especially enjoy getting to dress up and do unique activities. He said some students have ridden elephants or camels and participated in axe throwing. 

“There’s also a whole jousting thing,” Lewis said. “They go into the arena and they watch people dressed up as knights. They have all sorts of competitions, they have singing. There’s a lot of food involved…and they love to shop, and that’s a huge component too because there are all kinds of crafts and things you can purchase as souvenirs.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Solomon said the festival has had to make a lot of changes. For example, capacity has had to be limited to 50%, which is around 22,500 people per day.

“We require face masks when entering the festival and when social distancing is not possible throughout the festival ground,” Solomon said. “We installed over 200 hand sanitizers throughout the festival grounds, have designated face mask break areas and have marked seating at performance venues for social distancing.”

While the general festival remains open, days designated for students, or “school days,” have been cancelled. This means that the LASA choir will not be attending this year.

It makes sense; it’s basically the exact type of situation to try to avoid in COVID,” Hobbs said. “I’m disappointed, sure, but it’s not like I’m upset. I don’t blame anybody.”