Come one, come all, to the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire in Pensacola to witness armored combat, clashing jousters and browse rare merchant wares.
The 12th annual Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire in Pensacola will be held at the Pensacola Fairgrounds March 2-3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The faire was first established in 2001 on the grounds of the at St. Anne’s Church, but after Hurricane Ivan, was moved to the Interstate Fairgrounds.
“We have the history of being the first settlement. Before a hurricane blew that settlement away, St. Augustine tried to take the bragging rights for the first settlement, but they were the first settlement that survived,” said Steven Melei, who established the Renaissance Faire. “We were the first actual settlement, so that being said, we were settled in the Renaissance period.”
The host of the History Channel’s “Full Metal Jousting,” Shane Adams, will be at the faire once again this year. He is also the captain of the Knights of Valor, which he developed to bring a more authentic jousting experience to audiences.
“I have been jousting Renaissance festivals and medieval faires since 1993,” Adams said. “Our show is not by any means choreographed. There’s no script. We don’t use stuntmen. What you see is what you get, and it’s the real sport of full-contact jousting.”
During the week leading up to the faire, Adams will be training some of the up-and-coming jousters at the fairgrounds, Melei said. This training is because the show itself has pulled a lot of interest from people who would like to learn how to joust.
Jousting is just one of the many events the faire has to offer.
One such event is Michelle’s Magical Poodles, a group of four poodles, owned by Michelle Harrell, doing all kinds of neat tricks for the festival. In addition to the show, she has a solo living-statue act called “Statue Viva.”
“Some people walk by, and then I tap them on the shoulder and they’re like, ‘It’s alive,’ and it is sort of a surprise element, which is always fun and creates a fun scenario for the crowd,” Harrell said.
The faire attracts a lot of people: parents with young children, people who love the Medieval-Renaissance time period, action lovers and people who like to dress up for these kind of events.
“We do welcome the public to come in costume,” Melei said. “It makes it more fun. You can rub elbows with our over 200 costumed staff that we have there in attendance.”
Melei said they get their share of people dressed as elves, wizards, trolls and other entertaining costumes. Attendees sometimes make their own costumes, and the faire has leatherworkers that make costumes as well.
The faire brings a variety of entertainment such as jesters, jugglers, fire breathers, sword swallowers and SCA combat. The SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, perform an act of full-armor combat. The SCA also comes to the University of West Florida Festival on the Green to do fighting demonstrations, and they will be here again this year as well.
“There is only one way you can basically board a time machine and go back in time, and that is to attend these types of historical recreation festivals,” Melei said. “So if you want to go back in time, come to the Renaissance Faire and get a taste of what it would have been like to have lived in those times.”