Renaissance Festival Broaches Worlds of Fantasy, Cosplay

Whether ye be kings or queens, vikings or knights, wizards or even muggles, your attendance is requested at the 27thannual Florida Renaissance Festival at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, a modern town crier might declare.

For the fourth year in a row, the popular festival will offer seven themed weekends that offer an escape to the 15th century and beyond. In addition to the traditional jesters, jugglers and jousting knights, more than 100,000 people are expected to immerse themselves in the fantasy themes, said founder and producer Bobby Rodriguez.

“We try to change it up enough so no one can ever say, ‘Been there, done that,’” he said. 

The festival opens Feb. 9 – 11 with a “Game of Thrones” weekend as the great houses of the Seven Kingdoms battle for domination before winter comes. “Time Travelers/Steampunk” weekend, Feb. 16 – 18, invites guests to journey back to a Victorian era of steam engines, goggles and top hats. The shores of Quiet Water Park will then be overrun by axe-wielding “Vikings and Barbarians,” Feb. 23 – 24.

“Wenches Weekend,” March 2 – 3, celebrates the power of women—maidens, damsels and trollops, too—during the Renaissance era, while a nautical theme calls for “Swashbucklers and Sirens,” March 9 – 10, attracting pirates, buccaneers and scallywags from across the region.

The culture of the Celtic tribes is highlighted March 16 – 17 during “Kilts & Colleens,” with the blaring of bagpipes echoing throughout the festival site. The festival wraps up with the surprise hit of last year, “Magic, Witches and Wizards,” March 23 – 24, a theme that appeals to Harry Potter fans. Muggles are welcome and magic wands are a must to ward off the dementors.

Until recently, the pirates theme was the most popular. With the final season of “Game of Thrones” coming this summer, Rodriguez expects that weekend to be a particular draw, along with the closing “Harry Potter” weekend.

“It’s not Renaissance, but we take liberties,” he explained, after many years of strict adherence to the historical theme.  

The first festival only attracted 3,000 people, which Rodriguez said, in hindsight, was a huge success for a new event, but the recent popularity has been surprising.

“For the first eight or 10 years, we had some patrons who came in dressed up, but nothing like now. Over the past few years, it’s become hard to tell our [professional] performers from some of the patrons,” Rodriguez commented. “The investment people put into their costumes is just amazing.”

Organizing the festival is practically a year-round job for Rodriguez, who planned corporate events and weddings before taking on the Renaissance Festival.

“I was always fascinated with it, even though I didn’t know the difference between the Medieval and Renaissance eras. I was in my 20s when I first went to Medieval Times and loved it,” he recalled. “I started doing more research and spoke with the owners of other festivals who were kind to share information.” 

Rodriguez obviously hit on a winning formula because Biz Bash magazine consistently ranks the festival among the top events in South Florida.