Saturday, August 24, 2002

Renaissance fest sprouts themes

Characters play different roles to keep entertainment fresh

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        HARVEYSBURG — The Ohio Renaissance Festival is home to an expanding cast of characters this year.

        There's good Queen Bess, of course, and her swordsmen, jousters and minstrels. Add a troupe of fire-eaters, some mud-wrestler actors, pirates, three acrobatic macaws and a court jester, any number of crafty villagers and an abundant supply of wenches, and you have the population of Renaissance Park, a recreated 16th-century village.

   What: Ohio Renaissance Festival
   When: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day, starting today through Oct. 20.
   Where: Renaissance Park, just east of Harveysburg on Ohio 73.
   Admission: $14.95 adults, $8 children 5-12; some discounts available.
   Information: (513) 897-7000, ext. 242 or
        The characters evolve, depending on the festival's weekend theme. One weekend the washer-wenches may be cheering for pirate queen Grace O'Malley in her skirmishes with Queen Elizabeth. The next weekend they might offer to dye everyone's clothing green for St. Patrick's Day.

        When casting the festival each year, entertainment director Ray St. Louis looks for actors who can bring several dimensions to their roles.

        “The characters emerge during our workshops,” he explained. “Either (the actors) develop them or I steer them in a particular direction.”

        Typically Mr. St. Louis hires about 70 actors and musicians, and another 40 performers who bring their own routines to the festival mix.

        This is the festival's 13th year, and owner Peter Carroll continues to build on its success by broadening the event's appeal. This season he has added two more themed weekends to a list of proven crowd-pleasers. New this year are “St. Patty's Day in September” (Sept. 14-15) and “Feast of Fools Weekend” (Oct. 5-6).

        “What's the most popular themed weekend? The two-for-one discount one, of course,” he said.

        “After that, I'd say the Pirate's Weekend and Romance Weekend.”

        In addition to building audiences for the Renaissance Festival, Mr. Carroll wants to use the park for other activities.

        “I've got 177 acres here, and I'd like to get into other events that are completely unrelated to the Renaissance Festival,” he said. “I've been thinking about hosting an SUV and pickup truck show. I'd like to have concerts out here.”

        In July, Mr. Carroll and his staff took their first step in that direction by hosting a British Isles Festival. The event was aimed at the general public as well as at those with ties to the United Kingdom and Ireland.


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