Do This: The Sarasota Medieval Fair

Ren Fest fans can cross the Skyway to cross swords — but only through the weekend.

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click to enlarge Entrance to the Sarasota Medieval Fair. - Rebecca Harrell
Rebecca Harrell
Entrance to the Sarasota Medieval Fair.

Explaining to someone who doesn't get it why you're into renaissance fairs — like coin collecting or cosplay or phrenology — is generally a non-starter; you're either a fan, or you aren't. As a fan, I can say it's more than the costumes, and the entertainment, and the food and the handcrafted items for sale. It's also the complete and utter lack of judgement, of "cool factor," and of folks that don't seem to realize one is supposed to comport oneself a little differently at giant theme-specific events than one normally does at the dive bar or in the Port-O-Let at LiveStock '93. You can be whoever you want to be, and nobody's going to try to have their good time by ruining yours. 

Local ren-faire aficionados know the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, held each February and March in Temple Terrace near the Museum of Science and Industry, is the big annual to-do. But if you're looking to get your joust on more than once a year, yet can't commit to traveling to other events on the circuit, the Sarasota Medieval Fair is well worth a trip across the Skyway.

click to enlarge Ichabod the Wheel Walker. - Rebecca Harrell
Rebecca Harrell
Ichabod the Wheel Walker.

Located in the Ringling Woods adjacent to the Sarasota Fairgrounds (right off Fruitville Road), the Medieval Fair was founded in 2005, yet it looks a bit newer and feels a bit more intimate than the Tampa Bay shindig. Still, attendees get the full experience, from the garb and Artisanal Marketplace to the shows, which include offerings ren-fest veterans have come to expect (full-contact jousting, period music) along with emerging regular favorites (the Wheel of Death, the Washing Well Wenches comedy show) and plenty of others. Cast in Bronze, for instance, is a mesmerizing musical show in which a masked performer plays a one-of-a-kind carillon made up of more than 4 tons of uniquely tuned bells, while Human Combat Chess (unique to this year's theme) adds theatrical fighting to the familiar life-size strategy game.

Like other fests, the Medieval Fair also features special performances unique to each weekend of its run.

The Sarasota Medieval Fair is open this weekend (Saturday, Nov. 15 & Sunday, Nov. 16), and next weekend (Saturday, Nov. 22 & Sunday, Nov. 23) will be the final days of its three-weekend lifespan; Bay area Renaissance Festival addicts who don't want to wait until next spring to throw on the bodices and strap on the swords should make the trip south before the opportunity has passed them by.

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