Former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken was known as the “Ironman” due to his astonishing streak of playing in 2,632 consecutive baseball games. But locally, a similar feat is continuing in Crownsville as the Maryland Renaissance Festival’s president, Jules Smith, enters his 47th year.
“I started with the festival [by] helping my dad in 1977 while I was in college,” Smith said. “I helped build components for the festival and had so much fun in the first year, I had to do it again. Now the family business has grown to include my three brothers, my wife, son and a nephew working here.”
“Rennfest,” as the event is locally known, sits on 27 acres in Crownsville. It averages 15,000 people per day and has nearly 300,000 local and regional visitors each season.
The premise of the festival is to fictionally depict England’s 16th century when King Henry VIII ruled. The festival offers a wealth of entertainment, crafts and food reflecting that era.
“We have so much entertainment throughout the festival including jousting, music, variety acts, dancers and dramatizations on our 10 stages,” said artistic director Carolyn Spedden. “We also have jugglers, street performers, magicians, mimes and daring feats of skill. We truly have something for everyone.”
Some of the widely known acts are Jacques Ze Whipper, who has a large following on TikTok, as well as musical acts Albanech and world-renowned Ally the Piper.
To keep the festival fresh and inviting, the entertainment changes every weekend and there is turnover with new vendors and crafts.
“We have 22 new vendors this year with new products,” Smith said. “We also have new food stations, however, the festival’s favorite food, like the one-pound turkey legs and Steak on a Stake, will be available.”
Because Rennfest is entering its 47th season, Smith is proud that many generations have been to the festival and return each year.
“As I go through the festival each day, I have folks come up to me and say they started coming here in the ‘70s and ‘80s and now that have their children and grandchildren with them,” Smith said. “The festival has truly become a regional attraction as we have many families coming from Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia spending the day with us.”
The festival also gives the local economy a big boost as it employs 420 local residents — about 200 are entertainers — and the event features 140 businesses selling food, refreshments and crafts.
Rennfest features bagpipes and drummers this year, as well as birds-of-prey demonstrations.
The festival is open from 10:00am to 7:00pm on weekends from August 26 to October 22. More information is available at www.rennfest.com.
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