Every summer season in Tennessee is ushered in with a trip down to Arrlington for the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, which occurs every weekend in May (ok, not technically summer yet, but deal with it). This 25th anniversary of the festival continues to take visitors into the centuries-old world of merriment.
As far as I know, the Tennessee Renaissance Festival is pretty unique in that it has its own castle. Castle Gwynn was built by festival founder Mike Freeman, also serving as the actual home to Freeman and his family. During the festival, Freeman offers tours of his impressive castle and random medieval-ish decor.
But the real festival is down the hill and through the woods. At first glance is an entrance into dense trees, but within the forest are trails and clearings lined with vendors and performers tasked with maintaining the 16th-century-appropriate visage . This is the village known as Covington Glen.
Most of the vendors are selling shiny jewelry, expensive clothing, intricate chainmail and barely-sharp weapons.The food tends to be on the costly side, and sadly (as usual) the $5 turkey legs sell out rather quickly. Performances range from belly dancing and magic tricks to even performing Shakespeare plays.
Speaking of Shakespeare, history’s renown playwright participated in this year’s human chess match as the black king (MIGHT have been a stand in and not the actual guy). Human chess is always fun to watch. It’s a game of chess, but with people as the pieces on a board on the ground. The respective kings direct their pieces, and when a piece tries to take another out, they fight. The performances are funny, and the fights are well done. These matches are well rehearsed and planned out, giving any cosplay chess match I’ve ever seen at a con a run for its money.
Of course, you can’t have a proper renaissance festival without any jousting. In the second of the day’s matches, I rooted for the blue and silver jouster on the white horse, while my girlfriend rooted for the green and silver on the brown. My guy unhorsed her guy. Twice. Good times.
And then it rained. The last hour of the day was spent under an umbrella with friends. Just hanging out. And honestly, that’s what most of the renaissance festival is – an excuse to hang out. It’s always a family tradition to go, so I got to see my aunts, cousins and sister. Through random happenstance, I ran into a completely different aunt and uncle, as well as a variety of friends either working or attending…
And the Doctor.
For one day at $20 a ticket, it is costly when you’re just walking around expensive vendors most of the time while watching programming that hardly changes year in and year out. Still, the planned and random encounters at the festival, combined with staying most of the day instead of just a couple of hours, make it a $20 decently spent. Just be sure to have some spare cash in the coffers for the collectible yard glass.
For more photos, check out my Flickr account.