Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 8:25 p.m.
Knights will joust, men will eat fire, archers will dodge enemy arrows and - in honor of the Queen - you can chomp through a softball-sized turkey leg without silverware.
Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
What: 22nd annual medieval festival with jousting, artisans, street performers, minstrels, marketplace, food, human chessboard and pony/camel/elephant rides.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 1; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 2-3.
Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave.
Tickets: $12 adults, $6 ages 5-17; advance tickets available at Omni Bookstore and Domino's Pizza locations.
The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire returns to the Alachua County Fairgrounds starting Saturday for two weekends of authentic medieval revelry.
In its 22nd year, Hoggetowne and all of its stilt-walking, belly-dancing participants promise an "almost perfect period" recreation of a medieval marketplace: the bustling epicenter of entertainment and adventure during the Middle Ages.
As one of the state's most buzzed-about outdoor festivals, the fair is expected to draw a crowd of more than 50,000 guests, half of whom will travel from outside the city for the five-day event, said Entertainment Producer Bill Hutchinson, of the Gainesville's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.
The excitement begins each morning before the trumpets even toot the opening of the gates as costumed jugglers, dancers, musicians and performers gather outside the fairgrounds to welcome guests with a "meet and greet" preview of what's in store.
Inside, eight stages of continuous entertainment will host jugglers, jesters, magicians and musicians recreating the sights and sounds of a true medieval festival.
"Barely Balanced," an acrobatic duo, will hit the streets to engage the audience in "stilt limbo" and other back-bending stunts.
Members from the Thieves Guilde, a volunteer acting troop, will return to create the human chessboard show that helped make Hoggetowne famous. This year, Robin Hood and his Merry Men will battle against the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.
For more action, visitors can catch an authentic jousting battle or test their own strength and skill at dozens of Old World games.
Over at the "Royal Pavilion" children will have the opportunity to meet the King and Queen of Hoggetowne who, with the tap of a sword, will name each the proud lords, ladies and dragon slayers of the court.
After earning royal status, children are invited to enjoy pony, camel and elephant rides.
For an authentic glimpse at the life and work of medieval men and women, visitors can browse the wears of more than 160 artisans. And after learning the techniques of blacksmiths, wood carvers, weavers, leather workers and potters of yesteryear, they can shop for the perfect memento to remember the event.
"We look for goods that would have been sold then," said Events Coordinator Linda Piper. "It's truly the best of the best."
A royal food court, "with food fit for a king," will offer Old World treats like shepherd's pies and jumbo turkey drumsticks. For dessert, guests can chow down on the "Queen's Buns," a cinnamon pastry, and festival classics like funnel cakes and sweet roasted nuts.
On Feb. 1, admission is half price for students and teachers.
"A lot of fairs are all about fantasy but we're trying to recreate a moment in time that celebrates the lively cultural roots of 1,000 years ago," Hutchinson says.
Grab every member of your kingdom for a unforgettable trip into one of the world's most intriguing periods.
"It's purely fun," Hutchinson says. "It came from a great tradition of people getting together to celebrate."
Vanessa Garcia can be reached at 374-5036.
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