Bay Area Renaissance Festival brings medieval times to Tampa

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all photos Alexis Santos/Catalyst

Tampa – “Man in hat enters village,” the Town Crier bellowed as the Catalyst walked into the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. “What does man in hat say?”

“Man in hat says, ‘Hello!’,” the Catalyst replied, slightly bewildered. The Town Crier echoed the Catalyst’s response.

A man bedecked in Medieval garb proceeded to escort the Catalyst with an interlocked arm to the center of the 12th century-themed town. Immediately after, the Catalyst was taken as a dance partner around a Maypole to the tune of the 19th century Russian folk song “Korobeiniki,” better known as the Tetris song. The Catalyst proceeded to pay the village jester a visit and lobbed tomatoes at him while he retaliated with insults. Insults directed at the Catalyst included: “You should be eating those tomatoes instead of throwing them at me,” “Ladies and gentlemen, the only man in Florida who can dodge rain!” and “When you take a shower, you have to run towards the water to get wet.”

Now in its 34th year, the Bay Area Renaissance Festival is being held every weekend until Apr. 1 at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa. An historic Oak Tree grove across from MOSI has been transformed into a Medieval village and trader camp with vendor tents, shows and themed areas. Under the sprawling canopy of old Florida oaks, it is easy to feel transported to an era several centuries ago where Henry VIII was king. However, the occasional palm tree, ringing cell phone or digital camera break the well crafted illusion.

Vendor tents crowded the festival, selling leather goods, replica weapons, clothing and other Medieval-themed items. Badger Blades, one of many sword vendors, sells hand-forged weapons backed with a warranty against breakage of the blade for the life of the smith. Videos of their blades cutting through bowling balls, concrete and cinderblocks are proudly displayed on their website.

No Renaissance festival would be complete without period food, including the staple turkey leg. Other fare, including English classics such as shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and Scotch eggs, was available for approximately $5 each.

Visitors can revel at the festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine. Adult tickets for the festival are available for $18.95 each; parking is free. Tickets can be purchased online, at the door or at participating Walgreens locations in the Tampa Bay Area.

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