HAMMOND, Louisiana, December 8th, 2013— From the towering entrance to the furthest corners of the event grounds, the Louisiana Renaissance Festival succeeded in widening eyes and dropping jaws for hours of entertainment throughout the 2013 season. The celebration, encircling a large lake on a wooded plot in Hammond, Louisiana, took place for six consecutive weekends. From November 2nd and 3rd to December 7th and 8th, the fairgrounds attracted a heavy flow of guests from all walks of life, seasoned and amateur visitors alike.
Advertisements for the Renaissance Fest rightfully boast about the costumed comedians and theatre performers, dominating the center stages of the event. Every niche of the celebration spotlights at least one medieval act, from the captivating Pandorium Belly Dance Company on the Celtic Green to the cunning Duelists on the King Stage. Event goers can spend the entire day at the fair roaming the grounds to interact with winged predators at the Birds of Prey exhibition, learn the art of glassblowing from the safety of bleachers, and laugh at themed puppet shows with Hobgoblin Hill Puppets.
Another attraction of the event is the shopping scene. However, real treasures, prized beyond bundles of incense or polished weapons, can be found in the mystical stores. Although out of the medieval limelight, the individuals who manage the rows of booths and businesses might be the stars of the show after all. Missing an opportunity to converse with any of these colorful entrepreneurs is to miss a great deal of value in attending the Renaissance Festival. Why leave with only a plastic baggie of goods when one can depart as well with memories and a friendship?
Take, for example, Dara Richman, a medieval merchant for seventeen years, who maintains a stall displaying stacks of beautifully arranged ice candles in every hue. From a metal post outside hang dozens of hand painted lanterns, capturing the wandering eyes of passerby and glinting in the sunlight. A section of her booth is devoted to jars of aromatic incense and carved wooden holders. As if her shop wasn’t magical enough, her experiences only add to the allure: “I have parents who made their first candle during their student days twelve years ago and are now bringing their own kids to make one. I also love the appreciation of handmade crafts from the people who come to the festival.”
Richman, discontented with pungent store bought wax, began her craft in college and has continued since then. She has fallen in love with the Louisiana event and 2013 will mark her thirteenth year as a vendor.
Judy Odle and her husband also operate a cozy shop on the edge of the lake. Shelves of homemade lotions and bath products in bottles of all sizes adorn one wall, while baskets, heaped to the brim with wrapped soaps, dominate the other. In addition to her “medieval Bath and Body Works,” she exhibits her other passion for fiber by selling hand spun yarns, felting, raw wools, and tools of the weaving trade. A participant in Renaissance Festivals since 1992, she met her future spouse at such a gala and wed in Waxahachie, Texas, at the Scarborough Faire. “Many of my treasured friends I have met through the faires,” Odle recounts, “some people are fellow vendors and some are my customers as well… I guess because we have so much in common with all the people involved it makes for some unique friendships.”
One of the biggest mistakes a newcomer can make is not embracing the crowds of interesting strangers around him or her. Richman encourages, “Do come with friends and family that have curious, fun minds and playful spirits. Definitely ask us questions and interact with the cast— we love it.” The substance behind the Renaissance Festival lies in its artisans. Experiencing the event to the fullest means meeting and conversing with the musicians, actors, and traders.
Next year’s celebration can be expected around November as well, although specific dates have not been released yet. Join the cast of the Louisiana Renaissance Festival for the 2014 revelry at 46468 River Road in Hammond, Louisiana, in creating and cementing lifelong traditions and relationships.
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