Theme park of the Middle Ages
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.
Tents will be pitched, bards will shout the news and soldiers will frame the gates. It's market day, and the Middle Ages are for sale.
26th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
What: Festival celebrating the Middle Ages with costumed performers, jousting, living chess game, artisans marketplace, food and more.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 4-5; 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on School Day, Feb. 3.
Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave., next to Gainesville Regional Airport.
Tickets: $14 adults, $7 ages 5-17, free for ages 4 and younger; tickets half-price on Feb. 3.
Info: 334-ARTS or www.gvlculturalaffairs.org.
Starting Saturday, the 26th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire will transform the Alachua County Fairgrounds into a tapestry of such sights and sounds through Sunday and again on Feb. 3-5.
And 55,000 people are expected to walk through the theatrical gates and into medieval Europe to enjoy it.
“There will be soldiers stationed at the gate shouting insults at people,” entertainment director Bill Hutchinson says. “Did I say insults? I meant greetings. It's all good clean fun. It's just hooty.”
The royal pavilion will be open for all Hoggetowne guests to enjoy an art exhibition of school students' medieval masterpieces along with an interactive theater that will be sure to turn anyone into a town jester.
Fair coordinator Linda Piper says the entertainment is what makes the Hoggetowne fair experience special. “Our entertainers are some of the best in the entire country,” she says. “It's just a first-class show.”
Robin Hood Presents will hold up the atmosphere within the pavilion.
“Robin and Maid Marian get kids and adults from the audience and elaborately clothe them,” Hutchinson said. “The kids are the heroes and the adults become the villains. It's all impromptu.”
Every child who wishes will be granted a title of nobility under the colorful flags in the pavilion.
“My favorite thing about the fair is the king and queen,” Hutchinson says. “Every child that comes gets to become a knight or lady of the court. The kids are so serious and excited about it. It's charming.”
For those visitors looking for a little more adventure, knights will gallantly joust on horseback.
“They have these big, and I mean big, Percheron horses,” Hutchinson says. “There's something so kinetic and tactful when the horses start to gallop and you hear and feel the ‘prrrm prrrm' through the ground. It just transports you to another world.”
Visitors can take part in the action on the larger-than-life-sized chess board for the live chess match.
“Two people stand up with a microphone and say ‘bishop pawn to queen rook,'” Huchinson says. “The person has to move there. If it's inhabited, they have to fight to see who ends up on the board. Therein lies the drama. I wouldn't be surprised to see people getting zip lines and swinging down into the battle.”
The medieval theme will extend past the entertainment. A diverse food court will feature a range of food from turkey legs to a more modern choice, Domino's Pizza. Tarot and palm readers will delve into fair-goers' futures, and artisans will line the market streets with everything from dolls to wooden swords and shields.
“You see some kids come with things made out of foil and cardboard, and capes their moms made them,” Hutchinson says. “It's the cutest thing in the world.”
Sara Dunlap has been working as an artisan at the fair for more than 20 years. She says the merchants have a diverse array of goods to offer.
“Many of us make our merchandise ourselves and represent ourselves there,” she says. “I'm a doll maker and puppeteer. It's a variety of old craft. Everything I make was made in medieval times. There's nothing modern about it except the material.”
Dunlap says there is something at the fair for all ages. No wench, lord or knight will be left behind.
“The kids love it because it's so colorful, bright, cheerful and happy,” Dunlap says. “It's unlike any other festival in America. It really tries to keep a sense of medieval market day.”
Piper could not agree more.
“I always say Orlando has Disney and we have Hoggetowne,” she says. “It's our theme park.”
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