The 27th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire returns this weekend


Live jousting is an annual highlight of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, which runs Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 1-3 at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. (Courtesy of the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs)

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 8:54 a.m.

Nestled in the wooded heart of Gainesville, King Arthur's kingdom thrives just as it did in the sixth century, and for the next two weekends, outsiders are welcome to experience the medieval marketplace for themselves.

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Live jousting is an annual highlight of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, which runs Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 1-3 at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. (Courtesy of the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs)

Facts

27th 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. 2-3; 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on School Day, Feb. 1
Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave., next to Gainesville Regional Airport
Tickets: $14, $7 for ages 5-17, free for ages 4 and younger; tickets half-price on Feb. 1
Info: 334-ARTS or www.gvculturalaffairs.org

Guests who enter the gates of the 27th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire will be enveloped by authentic Celtic music, the savory scent of roasting turkey legs and the smiling faces of themed performers. Encouraged to dress up in costume, they are a part of the interactive role-playing setting, says Linda Piper, fair coordinator.

Held at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave., the event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both weekends, but it also will be open for half-priced admission Feb. 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fair, which boasts 160 artisans and eight stage performances, is more like a theme park, rather than a carnival. “I always say that Orlando has Disney,” she says. “And Gainesville has Hoggetowne.”

The two new additions to this year's roster of entertainment acts are “Fools of Fortune,” a jaw-dropping juggling show, and “Jypsy Jester,” which features the talents of acrobatic sisters Topsy and Turvy.

One of the returning attractions, the traditional archery booth, is expected to draw in a large crowd this year due to the popularity of movies like “The Hunger Games,” Disney's “Brave” and “The Avengers,” says Linda Archer, owner of Northstar Archery and the director of the booth.

For $1, guests get three tries to shoot one of up to seven live targets, who will be suited in heavy armor. Despite the daunting nature of being a target, Archer says the volunteers are not afraid of the arrows because they are made with special rubber-blunted tips. Though the arrow may cause a minor bruise in a less armored spot, they are very safe for both the shooter and the target.

This year, guests of any age can pretend to be characters such as Katniss Everdeen, Princess Merida or Hawkeye, Archer says. Shooting from the distance the length of a school bus, the task may be relatively easy to some but is perfect for beginning children. Those who don't know how to shoot will be guided by on-site volunteers. As an added bonus, guests who successfully hit a target in the helmet will receive a commemorative wooden nickel. The design changes every year, so patrons can build a collection.

Also new this year is the theme, “The Adventures of King Arthur,” in which actors, commissioned by the Gainesville Thieves Guild, become characters such as Merlin, Lady Guinevere and Lady Morgana. Twice daily, the actors will portray the fantastical story of how Lady Morgana and King Arthur team up to win the land of Hoggetowne. At noon, the characters' conflict will be introduced, and at 4 p.m. a Game of Living Chess will be played.

The mission of the fair's producer, the City of Gainesville's Division of Cultural Affairs, is to provide quality arts and entertainment for the community while also keeping it at an affordable cost, Piper says. Admission of $14 for adults and $7 for children under the age of 17 includes all of the shows, such as the joust and Birds of the Gauntlet. Because of the many attractions, Piper suggests fairgoers arrive early to avoid traffic, long lines and parking problems.

Admission does not include the three human-power rides, old-world games, food and items sold by the artisans and merchants.

Piper says she hopes to beat the record attendance of 55,000 people set last year. Though the outcome is mainly dependent on the weather, she believes there will be a very good turnout because people have been known to journey from places as far away as Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama just to see the fair.

“Last year 57 percent (of guests) came from out of the county,” she says. “So, it's a huge economic impact on Gainesville.”

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