There are 30 acres in Harveysburg, Ohio like nothing from this century. I arrive in peasant rags, with my mother and my son Dorian hooded in a green cloak. Outside a castle we meet a princess named Clara traveling with a motley crew. We cross under a portal, opening into an Elizabethan village where mud cottages and wood shacks stretch beyond eyesight. Incense wafts from merchant shops. A portly man in slops spills out of a tavern. Fairies wave smartphones and giggle for selfies. Creatures half man half beast barter with pirates. In the distance, clanging iron; a gentlemen’s duel. We’ve waited all year for this moment. It’s 16th century England, and we’re stepping back in time at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.
We grab a map at the entrance. This place is huge! We cross a bridge and walk along the tiltyard where knights on horseback wage brutal jousts. When they’re not charging lance-first, the tiltyard is open for War Horse Rides. Clara saddles up on the knight’s horse. Jousts are one of many must-see attractions. Jugglers, jesters and minstrels are part of the more than 100 performances daily on 12 stages.
Among the favorites are the Swordsmen who match rapiers with sharp wit. There’s the clowns of Fool Hearty who perform tricks with four-legged sidekicks. Then there’s the Mudde Show, a theatre in the ground. The front row is not for the faint of splatter. A full schedule is available online and you’ll also want to check out the themed weekends.
The best way to enjoy a performance is with a giant turkey leg in your mouth. Along with this Ren Fest favorite you’ll find stuffed grape leaves, corn on the cob, cups overflowing with mead and cones dripping with soft serve. There are more than a dozen places to dine.
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The many human-powered rides and games will test your skills and courage. Dorian points and claps at a bearded strongman propelling a dragon boat full of children sky-high. You can ride a camel, hurl tomatoes at villagers and storm the castle.
We meander past shops selling anything you can imagine. There are unicorn horns, kilts and crossbows. A merchant of tiny catapults launches marshmallows at shoppers. Clara gets fitted for elf ears. If you feel underdressed in jeans you can leave looking the part. The marketplace is home to more than 140 artisans and craftsmen selling only handmade items. There are bodices, capes and codpieces. The cobbler will make your custom fit leather boots, and the blacksmith will forge your blade. You can get your hair braided, your face painted and a fluffy tail affixed to your fanny. Halloween is just around the corner!
It’s more than a 16th century fantasy that draws me to Harveysburg. The peasant skirts, traveling musicians, even the Mudde Show make me nostalgic for a time in the not so distant past. You see, I grew up regaled with tales of my parents’ hippy youth. There’s the bus ride my mother took to Woodstock with her friend Bitsy. There was some unknown musician named Jimi Hendrix who performed at her neighborhood roller rink. She sat five feet away! Then there’s the summer she roamed the countryside with a band of artists, fantasizing they too were from a different time. The year was 1974. My mother joined the Renaissance Faire on the building crew. She slept under the stars with few modern luxuries and pure freedom.
Now as I stroll with her through this Elizabethan village, freedom abounds. Peasants walk the same path as the Queen. Vikings and vampires mingle with noblemen and furries. It’s a counterculture village where the 60’s nostalgia is a strong as the 16th century fantasy, and I’m glad I can share it with my mother and son.
The 27th annual Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg, Ohio runs weekends through October 23. For tickets, hours and more information, please visit the website.
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.