For 33 years, The Alabama Renaissance Faire has been a treasure to many people in the city of Florence. It is a time of authentic music, arts and crafts and medieval food. Not only this, it is a time for people to put on flamboyant costumes and put on a different persona, even the adults.
Despite the era, the Renaissance Faire seems to resonate with everyone who attends. It does not matter who comes out, whether it is their first time here or they have been participating for years, those who show up leave with the intention of returning.
Carena Liptak and her husband, Greg Dennie accidently stumbled across the Renaissance Faire last year. Immediately, the two were drawn to the set-up of the Faire - the fall colors, the old folk music and the smell of sweet funnel cake.
“It was awesome,” Dennie said. “When I looked around, people were wearing whatever the hell they wanted to and I thought it was cool to kind of just nerd out.”
Liptak admitted that the Faire is definitely one of their favorites events of the year.
“There are so many events [at Wilson Park], I feel like there’s a festival or fair here every weekend,” Liptak said. “We actually got married in this park – right on the other side of the fountain – so it has some personal significance to us.”
Similar to this couple who were married in the same park as the Renaissance Faire, there are stories behind every visitor, reasons that kept them coming back year after year.
Kayla Weir, University of North Alabama student, said the Renaissance Faire is a family tradition for her. Her family helped start up the Faire, and she has been a part of it since before she was born.
“My mom’s wedding was here,” Weir said. “I’m going to be having my wedding here. It’s my home, my family. It’s always changing and growing just like a family.”
Lee Freeman, author of “Medievalspeake: A Medieval Worde Boke” and one of the establishers of the event, has been a part of the Faire for 32 years, before it had a board of directors.
Freeman said he believes that one of the most important things that keeps him returning, aside from the fun factor, is the educational factor.
“One of the reasons why they chose Billy Warren, Mike Adams and some of those other people thirty years ago chose October to do a Renaissance Faire is because it was during the school year, and they could tie it in the literature curriculum in the schools like Chaucer and Shakespeare,” Freeman said. “They could tie it in the history curriculum of the historical medieval and renaissance period, and that’s really important.”
Like Weir, some people’s fervor for the Renaissance Faire began as a child - a culture their parents instilled in them. Maybe they attended the Faire as elementary, middle and high school students, participating in the sonnet writing and art contest, and fell in love with the ambience. Maybe they were very captivated on the subject in school. Or, maybe they just happened upon the Faire while strolling downtown one day.
However, others come to the Faire with the purpose to self-promote themselves and their crafts. Artists, authors and other craftsman sat under canopy tents, displaying their work, which varied from dream catchers and smoking pipes made from acorns to handcrafted journals and fresh jars of honey.
Mark Dudek, a member of an acoustic duo called the Crossjacks, stood at the park, playing guitar. He said he attends the Faire for the older, traditional music he gets to play.
“[The Crossjacks] really want to keep that music alive,” Dudek said. “[Renaissance Faires] are really the only place where you can still hear that kind of music live. It’s nice to bring that music here in a place where you’re really not going to hear it anywhere else.”
In spite of the heavy wind and light drizzle of rain, Magician and Street Performer Dartagnan Allan prevailed, performing card tricks and keeping a light, humorous mood.
Allan has performed all over the world and approached several different renaissance faires, but he decided to perform at Alabama’s to get his “foot in the door.”
“This is my second year here,” Allan said. “I really enjoyed it. Some of the bigger renaissance faires don’t have the soul of this renaissance faire. This has been going on for 33 years and because it’s such a small town sort of event, you get a lot of people who have been here for decades, and that creates a different kind of renaissance faire than some of the larger ones.”
Allan said that other renaissance faires have more politics involved and that they are more commercial. Not this one.
“This still has the soul where you kind of feel like you’re really at a renaissances faire from the past,” Allan said.
Full-time artist Oneta Cole has been coming to the Alabama Renaissance Faire for five years now and, much like everyone else, attended to showcase her artwork. But what brought her back was the sense of family and togetherness it gave off.
“Everyone is so nice and so appreciative,” Cole said. “I always leave here feeling like I’m a much better artist than I actually am because everyone is so nice. The people treat you well.”
Whether a person is an adult or a child, they always leave the Alabama Renaissance Faire with a new story to tell.