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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

History, fantasy meet at fest

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Actually, some would say it throws a party every summer, because the festival is about having fun.

"We have 57 acts this year," said Donna Buckley, assistant director of entertainment. "Everything from period music to juggling to middle eastern dancing."

Even Queen Elizabeth will be visiting.

That's Queen Elizabeth Glorianna.

Part fantasy play, part historical entertainment, the Michigan Renaissance Festival takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at "Hollygrove," the 15-acre festival village one mile north of Holly, Mich., between Pontiac and Flint.

On any day, it works like this: Park your vehicle outside the village gates and buy a ticket ($16.95 for adults, $7.95 for children). Enter the gates and walk into a representation of the 16th-century village, complete with all the characters you might expect to see, from merchants to washing wenches to saucy maidens and stern sheriffs.

In celebration of her silver jubilee, Queen Elizabeth Glorianna is visiting the villages of her realm, and she's due to arrive in Hollygrove that day. Thus, the shops are filled with delights to purchase, the stages are ready for a variety of entertainment. Her nobles will even demonstrate the art of jousting throughout the day.

Once you buy your ticket and enter the gates, you need not pay another cent more for the entire day, Buckley stressed. Just about all of the entertainment is included in the price, and some people take a break from the village and return to their cars to eat lunch from their coolers. The gate-tenders will stamp hands to allow visitors to return without a hassle.

However, she said, if visitors choose to part with their money, there are plenty of places for that to happen. Booths sell huge pickles, turkey legs, fish and chips, strawberry shortcake, soft drinks, water, beer, wine, smoothies, and much more.

Craft booths offer an array of temptations, from aromatherapy ointments to period costumes, musical instruments to pottery, leather goods to fine art, wooden bowls to woven capes.

There are games of skill, such as archery and ax-throwing. And, of course, the entertainers pass the hat, hoping for tips to help with living expenses.

Among the entertainers, the popular acts include Boca Musica, whose period music includes downright bawdy tunes; Seamus Perkins, a strolling musician with a Celtic flair; Ric Rock, a master of physical comedy and mime, and the ever-popular Ded Bob, a dapper skeleton with an eye for the ladies and the ability to turn the unsuspecting into zombies.

The Children's Dell has been given a facelift and offers crafts, games, and storytellers, Buckley said. New to the dell this year is a moat with a dragon and the Pippin Puppets show.

Each weekend at the festival has its own theme with activities that relate to that theme. This weekend is the Silver Jubilee Celebration, and many cast members from previous years will be strolling the grounds.

The rest of the weekends are:

●Aug. 21-22: Highland Fling, with a battle of the bartenders, silly sheep toss, and Scottish music and dancing.

●Aug. 28-29: Wine, Romance, and Song offers a renewal of wedding vows, a Renaissance Newlywed Game, and wine tasting.

●Sept. 4-6 (including Labor Day): High Seas Adventure include a pirates' treasure hunt and a limerick contest for youngsters.

●Sept. 11-12: Wonders of the World offers international dancers, belly dancing lessons, and international food and ale tastings.

●Sept. 18-19: Shamrocks and Shenanigans brings Irish music and dance, a Mr. Potato Head Competition, and cabbage bowling.

●Sept. 25-26: Sweet Endings. The traditional chocolate festival ends the faire on a sweet note.

The Michigan Renaissance Festival opens tomorrow and runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and Labor Day through Sept. 26 near Holly, Mich. For those taking I-75, the exit is 106, with signs pointing the way from there. Tickets are $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for students and seniors, and $7.95 for youngsters ages 5-12. Those 4 and younger are admitted free. Information: 800-601-4848.

The Ohio Renaissance Festival runs weekends Aug. 28 through Oct. 24.

More than 100 shows are scheduled on 12 stages throughout the 30-acre festival "village" of Willy-Nilly-on-the-Wash, located in the Columbus-Cincinnati-Dayton triangle. Food booths and more than 130 artisans are also part of the fun.

Weekend themes are:

●Aug. 28-29: Grand opening.

●Sept. 4-6: Labor Day Weekend, with youngsters 12 and younger admitted free.

●Sept. 11-12: Swashbucklers Weekend, with an "Arrgh!" contest and a pirate stunt show.

●Sept. 18-19: Romance Weekend, in which married couples may take part in a mass Renewal of Vows ceremony and singles may flirt to their hearts' content.

●Sept. 25-26: Feast of Fools, featuring the Fools Olympics and a King of Fools contest.

●Oct. 2-3: Highland Fling, with Scottish music and Highland Games.

●Oct. 9-10: Oktoberfest Weekend brings frothy ales, German foods, and oom-pah bands.

●Oct. 16-17: Fall Follies features a watermelon-pumpkin war.

●Oct. 23-24: Grand Finale..

The Ohio Renaissance Festival is on State Rt. 73 in Harveysburg, 15 miles east of I-75 exit 38 and two miles west of I-71. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children 5-12. Some discounts may be found on the Web site: www.renfestival.com.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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