A Day at the Arizona Renaissance Festival

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We are fresh off the opening weekend of the Arizona Renaissance Festival, the popular 30-acre 16th-century European country fair (or, I should say, faire) and amusement park that comes to life every spring in the desert east of Phoenix.

This is the 27th festival season here in Arizona, but the very first time either Dave or I have ever visited a Renaissance Faire. Those of you long-time Renaissance Festival aficionados out there know we have been missing out!

Frankly, I think I expected a lot of cheesy pageantry and geeky historic cosplay (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But the festival is so much more than costumed performers crying out “Huzzah!” while dressed in medieval garb (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

The festival is also a wonderful old-timey circus and open-air artisan marketplace. I left feeling impressed most by the talented festival performers. There’s plenty of them, as there are 13 stages of entertainment at the Arizona festival, with back-to-back shows going on all day.

We watched an entertaining joust, followed by amazing performances from family circus acrobats, fire jugglers and even a few bawdy joke-tellers. Excuse the hyperbole, but it’s difficult to avoid adjectives like “amazing” and “breath-stopping” when describing machete-juggling acrobats who gracefully stay balanced atop one another – while also staying balanced atop a rolling barrel.

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All photos: Dave Maestas

All photos: Dave Maestas

We visited the festival on a spectacularly sunny Sunday in February. Maybe I took in too much desert sun, but the whole colorful, sun-streaked spectacle – framed by the postcard-ready Superstition Mountains in the background – evoked memories of watching La Strada or the lovely, surreal desert circus paintings of Philip C. Curtis.

Another of my favorite parts of visiting the festival was exploring the artisan stalls. We took in a glass-blowing demonstration, received a semi-private lesson in how to make paper, and talked to artists who make everything from candles to wood-crafted beer steins.

If you plan on visiting the Arizona Renaissance Festival this year, bring plenty of sunscreen and tip money for the talented performers. If you’re anything like me, you will wish you had more loose bills to stuff into the hat when it goes around post-performance.

The Arizona Renaissance Festival is open every weekend through March 29th, as well as Presidents’ Day. General adult admission is $22 at the box office, but you can save $2 if you buy tickets in advance at a local Fry’s Food Store.

The Arizona Renaissance Festival
12601 U.S. 60
Gold Canyon, Arizona

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