Friday, April 5, 2013
Scarborough Renaissance Festival returns with mermaids, monarchs, and medieval mayhem
It's somewhere between Disney and HBO's The Tudors.
WAXAHACHIE Like most people, Janna Zepp wakes up for work around 6 a.m. But instead of throwing on a pair of pants and a blouse, she dresses like a queen - Queen Margaret of Scotland, that is.
As one of the leading actors at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, Zepp follows a special mantra as she prepares for each performance: "We make childhood memories for tomorrow's adults."
At 9:40 a.m. Saturday, Zepp will take her place at the main gate for the festival's opening show, a completely improvised performance with opening and closing lines, that come straight from fortune cookies pulled and read aloud by audience members.
The combination of professionalism and off-the-cuff improv is what has kept fans returning for 33 years and is what Zepp said will more than likely keep her there until the day she dies.
"I don't think anyone likes this fair quite like I do," Zepp said. "There's wonder in every corner. I'm still enchanted by it after 17 years."
The 33rd Annual Scarborough Renaissance Festival opens April 6 and will run eight consecutive weekends (and Memorial Day Monday) through May 27. Children are admitted free with an adult ticket purchase on opening weekend.
Situated on 35 acres, the festival earned a reputation for being one of the best renaissance fairs in the country, as it was ranked the No. 2 best festival in the nation last year by festival goers in the 8th Annual Renaissance Festival Awards. It also received second place for best jousting troupe, best street cast and best opening gate show.
This year the festival welcomes a few newcomers, as Mermaid Lagoon will feature the captain of the seas and lovely mermaids posed to captivate the young and old with their enchanting song.
Zepp, who received an award for best royal, has also gained quite the fan base. At 4 p.m., a special court is held for Queen Margaret, allowing Friends of the Faire pass holders to perform for her majesty on stage. From marriage proposals to skits and knightings, Zepp said this gives the die-hard guests or, as she calls them, her "faire faithful," a VIP spot at performances.
"It's like their talent show, these people are amazing," she said. "I have a whole other cast."
Another aspect of Scarborough that separates it from other festivals is the level of camaraderie and dedication, as evidenced by the fact that there are still people among the cast and crew who have been with it since it opened, Zepp said.
"We're somewhere between Disney and HBO's The Tudors," she said. "You can't see it all in one day. Every guest visit, no matter if it's their first or their 400th, is still their first visit. We try to treat them as if it's they're very first time. That is our product is magic."
Upon arrival, guests will enter an English village full of jousts and falconry demonstrations and non-stop Renaissance entertainment on 21 stages, complete with hundreds of costumed performers such as King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn. There are also many activities just for the kids, such as daily knighting ceremonies, Renaissance rides, a maze and human chess matches.
Food fit for a king is also within arms reach, with festival favorites like giant roasted turkey legs, steak-on-a-stick, Scottish eggs and meat pies, which can be washed down with the help of nine pubs and taverns.
By the time the gates open Saturday, the festival has already been about five months in the making, with the planning phase starting in December and cast members starting rehearsals eight weeks prior to opening day.
Aside from live entertainment, the festival also stands second-to-none in terms of the artisans specializing in everything from blown glass and jewelry to armors and woodworking, said Coy Sevier, Scarborough general manager. Their turkey legs were even featured on the Food Network as part of its "Anatomy of Food" series a few years ago.
"We are proud to be the most unique entertainment venue and family event in North Texas," Sevier said in a release. "We offer an exceptional, one-of-a-kind experience for our visitors and are consistently considered one of the best entertainment values available in the Metroplex."
Admission is $24 for adults and $10 for children, ages 5-12. Children age 4 and younger are free. Adult weekend passes are also available for $32. Parking is free compliments of Waxahachie Autoplex. Tickets are available online and discount tickets can be purchased at Dallas/Fort Worth area Tom Thumb or Austin area Randalls stores. For information, call 972-938-3247 or visit srfestival.com
Pegasus News Content partner - Star Local News
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