The little town of Staffordshire is set to come alive again with clashing knights, lovely ladies, joking jesters, musicians, magicians, common folk, noblemen and the queen in attendance.
Cornelia Miller Rutherford, the founder of the Virginia Renaissance Faire, promises that visitors will feel right at home at the same time they are entertained at the fair, which is celebrating its 18th year.
“What makes our fair so special is the interaction with the cast of characters. They’re looking forward to engaging you because after all, you’re a member of their town, too. It’s a chance to go and become a citizen of the little town of Staffordshire,” Rutherford said.
Entertainment at the Elizabethan-themed fair, scheduled for the next five weekends at Lake Anna Winery in Spotsylvania County, will start before the gates open at 10 a.m. and continue through the day right up until the gates close at 5 p.m.
The roving magician, Dinty the Moor, will make magic up close and personal for visitors. “He lets people participate in his magic,” Rutherford said.
The sea-shanty-singing duo Token Entertainment will also bring people into their act by inviting visitors to sing with them.
“They do wonderful sing-alongs. There’s usually quite a crowd wherever they are playing,” Rutherford said.
The Order of the Marshals will offer demonstrations about unmounted combat to show how warriors fought in Medieval times.
“They perform a couple of times a day, and you can stop by their tent and visit with them and actually see the weapons up close and personal,” Rutherford said, adding that combatants will be happy to talk to people between fights.
Her Majesty’s Archers, who will give demonstrations during “Archery through the Ages,” are “not to be missed.”
“I don’t care if you’re not even interested in archery, this thing is fantastic. It talks about the various arrowheads and how they go through different armor, and then, if you’re interested, you can get a lesson with archery trainers. We have an archery range on site. We also have and ax throw and a knife throw,” Rutherford said.
Blue Run Jousting Troupe of fine knights and noble steeds will demonstrate their jousting skills every weekend at the fair, and they’re good at what they do.
“Our jousters have been jousting since they were teenagers. They travel to some of the major jousting events across the country,” Rutherford said.
Other entertainers at the fair, which will run rain or shine, will include the Bad Idea Variety Show, an exploration of bad ideas through magic, and an astronomer, who will give lessons. Visitors will also be taught about spying and cyphers and hear stories about dragons, Rutherford said.
Couples will have the chance to air their relationship grievances at The Ladies Court of Love and have them adjudicated and settled. People who have saved their arguments all year can take them to the ladies to for a ruling.
“This is the place to take those things and get them resolved once and for all,” Rutherford said.
The ladies of the court are fair, she said. “Men can take their significant other to the Ladies Court of Love Things actually go in the man’s favor sometimes.”
The court of love occasionally serves another purpose.
“Every year we have at least one proposal and we always like to make that special. If you let us know that’s your plan, we will make it special,” she said.
Animals will also be part of the weekend’s festivities. Her Majesty’s Hounds, featuring retired and rescue greyhounds, will run twice a day, once in the morning and once in the early afternoon before the heat becomes “oppressive.”
“As always, the Mistress of the Hounds will explain how to pick a good dog and how to place a wager on one, then we run the dogs, so don’t blink,” she said.
Then there is the Circus Stella, a one-ring family circus featuring balance artist Dextre Tripp and his wife, Jayna Lee, and their performing puppies and acrobats.
“You can’t go wrong with dogs and acrobats,” Rutherford said.
In addition to all of the entertainment, there will be crafts for younger guests at the Poppet’s Pastymes for Children, where they can find silly Renaissance-themed fun with a puppet show, story time and dress up. And Granny Shepherd will teach children how to make no-sew rag dolls.
Merchants, vendors and craftsmen will be at the fair’s marketplace to sell their wares that will include jewelry, handmade pottery, incense, candles, oils, swords, leather goods clothing, swords, armor, leather goods, clothing, books and woodworks, Rutherford said.
She said that sometimes visitors get hooked and decide that they might like to be a part of the fair, which draws more than 1,900 visitors a day.
“We do give all of the training, and we’d love to have people come out and audition,” she said.
Rutherford said the cast takes pride in the accuracy of their dialect, speech patterns and accents and rehearse for weeks before showtime.
“I think a lot of it is having an interest in history and having an interest in theater,” Rutherford said of the cast, many of whom return year after year. “This crowd is ready to go. They are so good. I think it’s going to be epic this year.”
The cast of 79 also takes pride in the accuracy of their garb.
“The cast garments are historically accurate, we actually talk about them. Later in the day, there’s a class called ‘What Do We Wear’ and we dress up a couple of people from the audience and talk about all of the pieces of the clothing and what it means. Each piece of clothing has a purpose and cultural meaning,” she said.
Rutherford said the cast has as much fun as the guests who visit Staffordshire.
“The first time you perform and make people smile, it’s like a drug. It feeds your soul. It’s really the absolute joy of making people smile and have a good time,” she said.