Prepare to make merrie this winter as the 2011 Florida Renaissance Festival pitches its tents in Miami and Deerfield Beach.
Now in its 19th year, the festival portrays aspects of 16th Century life such as jousting, sword fighting, fencing, tournament games, and falconry. More than 100 artisans exhibit and sell their wares, and costumed practitioners of trades and crafts demonstrate authentic techniques.
Professional entertainers perform on six separate stages, a minstrel’s corner, and the jousting field. Lending atmosphere and authenticity to the festival, hundreds of costumed performers roam the grounds. Multiple food and beverage vendors tempt the palate with delicacies of the Middle Ages (and some from the 21st Century as well).
Where and when
In Miami, the festival takes place at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., during two weekends – January 15-16 and January 22-23 – plus Monday, January 17 (Martin Luther King Day), and a school day on Monday, January 24.
The Deerfield Beach location is in Quiet Waters Park, 401 S. Powerline Rd. The festival will be there for five weekends – from February 12-13 through March 12-13 – plus Monday, February 21 (Presidents’ Day), and a school day on Monday, February 14.
At both locations, festival hours are 10 AM to sunset, except on school days, which are 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM.
How to enjoy the festival
Think of the Florida Renaissance Festival as a miniature theme park, and prepare for a visit as you would for an expedition to the wilds of Orlando. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and a hat or cap. Bring sunscreen for a clear and bright day, as well as raingear in case a storm threatens. Come early before the parking lot fills up, and plan to spend all or most of the day.
Decide which venue you want to attend. They are not the same. Some performers appearing in Miami aren’t at Deerfield Beach, and vice versa. To help you choose, photos and biographical information for the entertainers at each location are on the festival’s Web site. So are each location’s entertainment schedule and map.
Throughout the day, several events take place simultaneously in various parts of the festival grounds, so compile an itinerary in advance. Then you won’t waste valuable time after you arrive figuring out what to do, and you’ll run less risk of missing something you really want to see.
Also allow some free time at the artisans’ tents, where the people demonstrating their skills are eager to explain what they’re doing. Don’t be shy. Engage them in conversation and ask lots of questions. Where else can you find chain mail being made, or an apothecary with an inventory of natural remedies?
When you get hungry, don’t stop at the first food purveyor you encounter. Others may have something on the menu that you’ll prefer.
If you bring children to the festival, look for the Kid’s Kingdom, a children’s play area with games, crafts, historical information, and a bounce house. Also available is a Scout Patch Program that offers free admission to groups of at least six scouts and their leaders. Download the forms for this program in advance and bring them with you to the festival.
Images from the past
The accompanying slide show contains images from the 2010 Florida Renaissance Festival in Miami.
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