The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is the summer highlight for so many Minnesotans (and even our neighbors in surrounding states!). While the future location of the Fest is in question, the land lease has been extended through 2019. That’s welcoming news to the die-hard fans, who now know we have at least a few more summers of donning our capes and chain mail and ordering a glass of mead. While you can, be certain to get down to Chanhassen and experience the RenFest in all its current glory. To make the most of your time there, consider planning your visit during one of the many themed weekends and be sure to check out the new features added this year.
New additions to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this year are a “Wizard’s Flight School Zip Line,” whiskey and scotch tastings ($45/person, schedule posted online) and Renaissance Bingo. A new contest introduced this year is called “The King’s Karpool.” Contestants and three or more friends will decorate their car in a cohesive theme, using #KingsKarpool on both a social media post with a picture of the car/contestants and on the car itself. Winners will be announced daily at 1pm on the festival’s social media sites. Make sure you like/follow the Renaissance Festival on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to see the winners – and maybe even get in on the action!
The opening weekend, August 20-21, is “Silk Road: Discover the Riches” and features a Fairy House/Garden competition as well as many Far East related activities. If you’re feeling confident about your ability to sway your hips to the beat, there’s even a belly dancing competition. Middle Eastern music will also be featured, so both your ears and eyes will be tantalized by the sights and sounds.
If you’re looking to spice things up a bit with your significant other, or to just enjoy some delicious treats, September 10-11 is “Wine, Chocolate & Romance” and includes a chocolate festival, chocolate pie eating contest, and free vow renewals for the true romantics at the Banner Oak Event Center. There is also a grape stomp to practice your wine making skills and a Ménage a Trois wine demo. A great addition to the weekend is “Sign Language Saturday,” at which American Sign Language interpreters will be at the festival all day to interpret at the front gate, for stage acts, and other daily events.
The season concludes the weekend of October 1-2 with “Oktoberfest.” This weekend, even though it’s the last of the season, is definitely one of the most entertaining themes. If you have a Dachshund with speedy little legs, consider entering him/her in the Weiner Dog Races – but make sure you pre-register! If you have a lustrous beard that turns heads (in a good way), make sure to be around for the Beard Contest. And don’t forget to save your appetite for the Sauerkraut Eating Contest. The Bavarian Village, a collection of shops, vendors, and more, is also an opportunity to learn more about German culture during Renaissance times.
If you’ve never attended The Minnesota Renaissance Festival before, here are a few things to know: The festival is open weekends from August 20 to October 2 from 9am-7pm, regardless of weather. Arrive as early as you can in order to avoid traffic–as the day goes on it gets really congested the closer you get to the parking lots. Wear comfortable shoes. Be prepared in case of rain. There is a booth at the State Fair that sells discounted tickets, otherwise, tickets may be purchased at the festival’s front gate when you arrive. It’s a canine-friendly event, but make sure you visit their website, www.renaissancefest.com to make sure you have all the information you’ll need to know about bringing your dog. Their website also has more details on schedules, stage acts, and contest information.
2016 will be a great year for the RenFest, so grab your friends, make a cloak out of an old sheet, and let yourself feel the magic of history and imagination come together in this great Minnesota tradition.
By Whitney Grindberg