For 35 years, the 16th century has had its revival in the form of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival.
This year is no different, and with the final weekend of the 2013 festival approaching, USF students have a location advantage to the historically accurate event.
The Florida festival began in Largo in 1979 and featured a small collection of dancers, jugglers and archery contestants, but moved to the lot next to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) 10 years ago.
“They had available land and we were looking for a new site,” Marketing Coordinator Will Peterson said. “It just worked out in everybody’s favor and we have a great relationship with MOSI.”
Now, with more than 80,000 guests attending, the festival spans across seven weeks in the early spring.
The setting of 16th century England is built right across from USF, where the atmosphere tells of knights jousting and turkey legs being eaten. The event, which has its last themed weekend running until this Sunday, features more than 100 local crafters, artisans and merchants.
Aside from the standard group of madrigals and performers, this year’s festival features a mermaid show — a new addition to the old-time village — along with a fairy house competition and a “Wheel of Death.”
“It involves a handmade, all-wood contraption,” said Peterson.
The one-of-a-kind circular wooden structure hovers over 30 feet in the air while spinning, as circus stuntman and creator of the wheel Ichabod Wainwright leaps around, unrestrained by the risk of falling.
Major contributions to the aesthetics of the festival come with the vendors and artisans who sell handmade items.
The final themed weekend of the festival’s season is a “high seas adventure,” complete with tattoo contests and a beard competition, which is also a new component to the festival.
“We’re going to have a bunch of different prizes for the grizzliest beard and the cleanest beard and the best mustache,” said Peterson. “It’ll just be a lot of fun.”
Ysanne Taylor, a junior majoring in graphic design went to Tampa’s Renaissance Festival in previous years.
She said aside from the unique experience and fun of stepping into an alternate time, the event provides an eclectic array of educational tools about the historical era that many people probably do not know.
“There’s information about different parts of medieval life,” she said. “It’s a fun festival with a bunch of people who are very enthusiastic.”
Though some modern conveniences were necessary for the comfort of those in attendance, the event’s main goal is to stick to historical fact.
“I don’t think they had Pepsi in the 1500s,” Peterson said. “But the characters have full historical knowledge of the time period.”
For the last weekend of the festival, USF students with an ID will get a special price of $8.95 for a ticket, beverage and turkey leg.