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A fair of medieval proportions

Knaves and wenches alike are promised plenty of fun at the 23rd Annual Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Largo.The event, which features six weekends of medieval magic, minstrels and maidens, is located at Largo Central Park, behind the Largo Public Library at 400 Central Park Drive in Largo. Four weekends remain for visitors to tour the medieval village.

Guests are invited to step into a time full of maidens, wizards and magicians.

“Discover an enchanted realm of wizards and warriors amongst gourmet treats and unforgettable entertainment,” says the festival Web site.

Senior Molly Peterson acknowledges the promised sense of enchantment.

“When I’m there, I feel like I should curtsy every time someone speaks to me,” said Peterson, who attended the festival to kick off her first weekend of spring break.

While she said that curtsying is unnecessary, Peterson said visitors should expect to receive royal treatment.

Her only qualm?

“The drive is really long.”

While the 30-mile trek from Tampa to Largo may seem endless, Allie Westphal, one of the festival’s marketing representatives, said it is worth the time.

The festival is the place “to see something unique and interact with people from the 16th Century,” Westphal said.

Jugglers and magicians will roam the pathways between more than 140 craft specialists displaying their handmade goods. There will also be live, armored jousting twice daily and several human chess matches. Minstrels and maidens will line the path, inviting guests to stop for a chat.

The Demzarah Gypsies, a family of Middle Eastern dancers who have participated in the festival since its conception, will offer belly-dancing lessons.

Eight street theater stages will also feature scheduled daily acts.

New acts this year include Kitty Carol’s “Birds of the Gauntlet” show, featuring displays with hawks and falcons. Magician Rod Sipe will also bring his combination of fire eating and comedy to the stage.

“It’s like a state fair with a Renaissance flavor,” Westphal said. And the festival promises plenty of flavor. The gourmet 16th Century fare, complete with traditional ale, is quite a contrast to the funnel cakes and Italian sausages of last month’s Florida State Fair.

“I don’t know how many times I got offered a roasted turkey leg,” Peterson said. “And I must have eaten at least four of them.”

Each of the upcoming weekends feature parkwide themes. “Highland Celebration” is this Saturday and Sunday. “Spring Fling” will be celebrated March 30 and 31 during which there will be a Maypole celebration. The weekend of April 5-7 is themed “Wonders of the World,” followed by the concluding weekend’s “Royal Ale Festival,” April 12-14.

Advance tickets are available on the festival’s Web site and at Ticketmaster. Cost is $11.95 for adults, $10.95 for seniors 55 and older and $4.95 for children 5-12. At the gate, each ticket price increases by $1. Children younger than 5 are admitted free. Visitors older than 17 who donate blood at the Florida Blood Services bus outside the gate are admitted free. Additional discount coupons are available at Albertson’s and Circle K stores.For information, call (727) 586-5423 or 1-800-779-4910, or visit .

  • Contact Danielle Ritchie at oraclefeatures@yahoo.com