Crowds flock to Hoggetowne Medieval Faire

Prism Reiner, 4, makes bubbles Saturday with Gail El-Ramey at the 19th annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. The fair continues today and runs Friday through Feb. 6

KRISTEN HINES/Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 1:50 a.m.
Chris Conrey, of Daytona, wasn't expecting to make her acting debut Saturday.
But shortly after arriving at the 19th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, she was drafted for the role of love interest Julianne of the House of Potato in "Making The Meatball."
The opera is just one of many events drawing crowds to the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire today and next weekend.
Emily Jones, Conrey's 13-year-old daughter, watched with delight as her mother, donning an alluring costume and headdress, acted out a death scene after pretending to eat a poison meatball.
"I'm getting pictures," said Emily. "I'll be able to use them to blackmail her when she grounds me."
The fair's seven stages of continuous entertainment feature jugglers, jesters, magicians and musicians playing medieval melodies on period instruments. For young children, there are human-powered push rides and for those wanting to test their skills, the fair offers crossbow shooting and knife throwing. The "Birds of Prey" show features trained hawks and falcons who perform for the crowds. Thirty new artists have been added to the performance line up this year.
The annual event draws an estimated 50,000 people over its five-day run, said Linda Piper, the events coordinator for the City of Gainesville Department of Cultural Affairs. About 9,000 students from 19 counties across the state are expected to attend the fair Friday during School Day. Tickets on Friday are also half-priced and individuals with disabilities are admitted free of charge.
"You really need all day to see everything," said Piper.
The crowd early Saturday was promising despite cloudy skies, said Piper. She says she expects a larger turnout today due to less chance of rain.
"The turnout exceeded our expectations," Piper said. "We expected rain all day Saturday, but we didn't get any until after the last show ended at 6:30 p.m."
One of the fair's most notable attractions is the joust, where knights in full plate armor charge each other on horseback.
The marketplace has more than 150 artisans whose specialties include weaving, jewelry-making, blacksmithing, leatherworking, woodcarving and ceramics.
The Viking and the non-Viking blended as performers, vendors and many festival-goers dressed in kilts, robes, cloaks and tunics.
Many of the performers, including Bob da Vinci of The da Vinci Brothers, travel from fair to fair, but some local performers have been practicing stunts and rehearsing sword fighting weekly since September to prepare for the festival.
Da Vinci says he loves what he does for a living.
"If I'm doing my job right, I am looking for that little gleam in people's eyes," said da Vinci. "I love listening and talking to the audience."
The festival continues today, Friday and Feb. 5-6. Tickets can purchased in advance at Omni Bookstore.

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