BONNEY LAKE, Washington, August 23, 2022—Deep in the fields of Lake Bonney, Washington, rests the town of Merriwick: a town of merchants, jesters, knights and the royal court spending their days in the tournament arena watching the jousters fight to become the champion of the day. In many ways, you could say Merriwick is stuck in time – the 16th century to be precise – where nobles, knights and clergy from all over the country come to feast on turkey legs, buy swords from blacksmiths and sing carols while rocking their beer. horns full of mead.
Merriwick isn’t a real town, of course (at least a government-recognized town), but the setting for Washington’s annual Renaissance fair in mid-summer which takes place every weekend in August. Friday through Sunday, 6 through 21, history comes alive with battle performances, period music, improv comedy and more, transporting visitors back in time to party like in 1578.
The town of Merriwick is immersive and expansive, approximately 120 acres including parking lots and campgrounds, with a craft market selling unique jewelry, weapons, leather goods, clothing, shoes, and more. A food court also offers a variety of options where visitors can feast like a king on meat pies washed down with barrel-aged root beer from Doc Mcgilly Sasparilly.
The entertainment is non-stop from opening to closing, including an escape room, “Fakespeare” (Shakespeare summary in layman’s language), jugglers throwing flaming battle axes, comical pirates swordplay, various musical acts, acrobatics and of course jousting matches performed by the Knights of the Round – a professional stunt troupe with years of theatrical combat experience in the film industry and/or the medieval times chain of dinner theaters. Activities for kids or the young at heart include castle games or the chance to meet mermaids and fairies at the Wyldewood Fae.
For warriors in training, learn to use a bow and arrow at Seven Meadows Archery, throw axes or hire foam swords to take on your friends in close combat. Or, if physical combat isn’t your thing, roll the dice in a one-shot game of Dungeons and Dragons at the Cleric Games tent.
Camping options are also available for visitors wishing to fully immerse themselves in the festivities of Merriwick or to spend a night of celebration in the many beer gardens and taverns of the fairgrounds. The camping experience becomes something of an afterparty itself, Shana Casey, chief marketing officer, told the Lynnwood Times, where like-minded “nerds” spend the weekend making friends, playing games and having fun without worrying about getting home safely.
No town set in the middle ages would be complete without a king and queen and Ren Faire of Washington adds the role nicely with Queen Elizabeth I and her court. Accompanying the Queen this year are King Philip of Spain and Queen Cecelia of the Swedish court. The actor playing King Phillip started out as a fairground attendee, interacting with customers as a character, and quickly became a fan favorite, leading the company’s entertainment director to him. offer to officially play the role.
The royal court at the fair has an ongoing storyline, which is mostly improvisation, Casey said. The first four years were Scottish themed with Mary, Queen of Scots, but when the actress playing Mary retired (the character was decapitated in the overall narrative), the faire changed to an English ren faire and has been one ever since. Now, Queen Elizabeth is currently sought after by a list of suitors who hope to win her heart for the title of king.
Although cosplay is not required to visit the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Fair, it’s encouraged with different themes each weekend starting with “Masked Mauraders” its opening weekend, “Fairy Tales and Fantasy” this next, and ending with “Across the Multiverse” where rennys can wear n anything from lost Star Trek travelers to Marvel superheroes. Costumes can also be rented on site.
This year marks the 13th season of the Washington Renaissance Faire, taking a year off from the pandemic, and is the biggest year yet, according to Casey, with a 20% increase in square footage and a tripling of food and entertainment from previous years. Based on ticket sales alone, the fair expects around 55,000 attendees, 10,000 more than their annual average.
Ren Faire of each year takes an entire year to organize consisting of the Washington Renaissance Arts and Education SocietyThe (WRAES) Board meets every September to begin planning how the next year can be bigger and better. The production would not have been possible without the approximately 500 volunteers and enthusiasts who have a love for story, performance, cosplay and a love for Ren Faires.
The Washington Renaissance Arts and Education Society is an organization that holds several festivals that encourage learning about the era in fun and creative ways.
“Ren faire culture has kind of been in the belly for a while, but I’ve seen a resurgence in interest over the last three or four years,” Casey told the Lynnwood Times. “There is a culture there. These are people who love the story, who love the timeline, who love the idea of LARP, and it becomes a sense of community.
Renaissance Faires have an approximately 40-year history in the country, beginning with Southern California’s Renaissance Pleasure Faire which began in San Diego in 1962. Originally a one-time resort fundraising event local radio station, the RPFS is still alive. today, grown into a massive festival that attracts a quarter of a million visitors a year.
Today, there are at least 66 long-running Renaissance fairs in North America with at least a duration of two weeks or more and a continuous duration of at least five years.