With more than 250,000 people visiting the Ohio Renaissance festival in 19 days last year, there’s no doubt the annual event has become a fall entertainment juggernaut in southwest Ohio.
“Renaissance festivals are an industry all its own in the entertainment world, and there are some really awesome shows across the country to be in company with,” said Cheryl Bucholtz, longtime marketing director for the Renaissance Festival. “Since the ownership change in 2015, significant investment has been put into infrastructure, customer experience and participant experience at this festival. Not knowing for certain, I would guess that based on size of property, attendance, length of season, and the interest of participants wanting to be at this show, we are definitely in the top five across the county, perhaps in the top three based on those parameters.”
Fantasy and history will collide Saturdays and Sundays through October 29.
Although the festival is hugely popular, organizers are still looking for ways to add value and content year after year.
The largest festival expansion in more than 20 years comes this year courtesy of Whimsy Woods, a five-acre expansion offering more food, seating, shade, entertainment, and shopping and a larger arena and viewing area for the Cincinnati Barbarians group to perform.
“With the growing crowds we’ve experienced since 2015 (minus one for COVID), it was time to try to create more options for our attendees,” said Bucholtz. “Whimsy Woods is the most shaded area on the site and has a quiet, babbling brook running through it. Very scenic and serene. A little less rollicking vibe back there than in the main part of the festival. This shady area is full of whimsical and fantastical nuances, new foods, a natural playground (for) kids, (and) new drinks featuring non-alcoholic beverages.”
In addition, improving customer experience is key. Last year festival organizers eliminated charging for parking allowing staff to cut down on the waits to enter the park. This year they’ve put a heat map in place to help gauge the crowds for festival days for day of ticket purchasers, which now represents nearly 60 percent of online ticket sales. The idea is that if someone sees the heat map in red, they might consider coming another day if they can and have a better experience. Bucholtz says the heat map will be updated hourly.
“We’ve also just released a PWA App which acts like any other app on your phone when installed,” she said. “Users must install it before getting to our festival site because the service is very spotty out here, and there is no public Wifi. We wanted to offer an alternative to printed programs and the frustration of trying to pull up a website. Again, the key thing is to install it before reaching the festival site.”
The entire festival is built around live, interactive entertainment whether taking in a show or shopping and seeing a demonstration of glassblowing. Each weekend is themed as well.
Upcoming weekends include: Pirates Weekend (Sept. 16-17), Highland Weekend (Sept. 23-24), Time Travelers Weekend (Sept. 30-Oct. 1), Viking Weekend (Oct. 7-8), Romance Weekend (Oct. 14-15), Feast of Fools (Oct. 21-22) and Tricks or Treats (Oct. 28-29).
Here are 30 reasons to enjoy visiting the Ohio Renaissance Festival this year:
1. Jousting – The original “heavy metal” executed three times daily.
2. Queen Elizabeth – Meet Her Majesty as she wanders through the village.
3. Shipwrecked stage – See the impressive pirate ship during the Pirate Comedy Stunt Show performed twice daily.
4. Villagers – Willy Nilly wouldn’t exist without the interesting characters that call it home. Meet them in the lanes as you journey through the village.
5. Music – Enjoy the sounds of village musicians scattered throughout the realm.
6. Bread bowls – Delicious soups and stews served in bowls of bread.
7. Turkey legs – Succulent roasted turkey legs weighing in at 2 pounds each.
8. Steak-on-a-Stake – Juicy, seasoned cut of steak cooked to perfection and served on a stick for easy eating on the go.
9. Rides – Children of all ages will enjoy the thrilling human-powered rides.
10. Games – Test your skill at the many games in the Gaming Area.
11. The swordsmen – Enjoy this duo’s quick wit and even quicker swordplay while teaching you how to become a “Master of the Manly Arts”.
12. The Mudde Show – Don’t miss literary classics performed in the Olympic-sized Muditorium, where comedy meets Earth.
13. Kamikaze Fireflies – Enjoy a constant series of jaw-dropping tricks, audience interaction and hilarity.
14. Shopping – Browse over 160 shops with unique, handmade wares with flare. Clothing, jewelry, home décor, candles, artwork, shoes/boots, leather products, and so much more.
15. Collectable mugs – Every year is different! What will it look like this year?
16. Closing gate ceremony – At the end of each day the villagers come together to give you a serenade, thanking you for visiting the shire and well wishes for your journey home.
17. Family fun – There is something for all ages at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.
18. Highland games – A demonstration of Traditional Highland games are held during Highland Weekend that you can participate in.
19. Amazing maze – See if you can find your way through the maze but don’t be lead astray.
20. Tower of London Dungeon of Doom – Tour the historical displays of punishment from the 16th century.
21. Queen’s bloomers – Treat someone special to the gift of a beautiful, fresh rose from a rose walker in the lanes or the booth.
22. Pub sing – Stop by the end of the day “Huzzah!” at the Aleing Knight Pub. You never know what might happen.
23. War Horse rides – Don’t miss your chance to ride a knight’s horse around the lyst.
24. Parade – Every day at noon the villagers and merchants come together to parade around the realm in honor of Her Majesty visiting their village.
25. Knighting ceremony – Become a Knight or Dame, Prince or Princess, as Her Majesty bequeaths title on all in attendance.
26. Pub crawl – For those 21 and over, join the pub crawl with your friends and have some fun crawling from beer to beer around the village.
27. Naughty Bawdy Pub Show – Another 21 and over event, this show is just what you need to wrap up a fun day at the festival.
28. Knighting ceremony – Children can be knighted by the Queen each day.
29. Great Q and frosty brew – Delicious barbecue served fresh from the 1572 Roadhouse Bar-B-Q. Check out the impressive patio space, too.
30. Demonstrations – From world-class artisans such as glassblowing, candle making, boot making, leather tooling, blacksmithing, forging, just to name a few.
Fun Facts: Renaissance Festival by the Numbers:
153 daily performances
35,000 turkey legs served
40 onsite weddings on average each year
10-14 tons of dirt for the mud pit
570 lances used to joust
65 foot tall mast at the Tiki Bar
5 women have portrayed Queen Elizabeth in 34 years
Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
What: Ohio Renaissance Festival
When: Saturdays and Sundays through October 29.
Where: Renaissance Park in Harveysburg. Located just minutes off I-71, exit 45 or I-75, exit 38 on State Route 73 in Warren County.
Cost: Tickets: $30-32 (adults), $10-12 (kids aged 5-12), $85 (adult season pass). Children 5 and younger get in free.
More info: www.renfestival.com