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Renaissance festival outside New Stanton transports visitors to fantasy kingdom

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Robert Weible | The Times Express
A parade goes through the grounds during the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. The annual festival takes place in Westmoreland County.
Robert Weible | The Times Express
Visitors stroll through Morelandshire Court on the grounds of the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County. The annual festival takes place in a fictional kingdom called Morelandshire.
Robert Weible | The Times Express
Ye Klass Klowne, also known as Brady Wegener, breaths fire during the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County. He is scheduled to return for the 2013 festival.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc.
The grounds fill up during the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. The annual festival takes place in Westmoreland County.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc.
Visitors watch a show during the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County. The annual festival offers entertainment on several stages.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc.
Dan Hasselius performs his 'Great Balls of Fire' act at the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County. He is scheduled to return for the 2013 festival.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc.
Children ride the butterfly ride at the 2012 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County. Rides are among the attractions at the annual festival
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc.
Bagpiper Sean Patrick Regan will perform at the 2013 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in Westmoreland County.

Those looking for Prince William and Duchess Kate won't find them at this royal party.

But anyone who wants to see a king and queen and their 16th-century court can do so at the 2013 Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. The annual trip back in time kicks off this weekend at the festival grounds, 112 Renaissance Lane, off Interstate 70, 6 miles west of New Stanton.

It continues every weekend through the end of September and also is open Labor Day.

Produced by Rocky Mountain Festivals Inc., based in Castle Rock, Colo., the event takes place on approximately 40 acres near the Laurel Highlands with a complete royal court and others who dress in period costumes and speak in 16th-century dialect, said to Jim Paradise, director of marketing.

“This is not a re-enactment. It's a fantasy kingdom based around the 16th century,” Paradise said.

“It's a getaway from normal everyday life and a chance to be able to eat, drink and be merry.”

Tickets at the door cost $16.95 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 to 12, and those 4 and younger are admitted for free. Discounts are available to people who buy tickets online. The festival runs from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 each day.

Visitors are invited to get into the act and dress in costume if they choose, though, Paradise said, most people come in regular clothes.

Organizers are expecting 75,000 visitors over the six weekends, Paradise said. Attendance has been growing since the company took acquired ownership of the festival seven years ago, he said, and last year's fest attracted 70,000 people.

“Each day is full of food, entertainment, arts and crafts,” said Paradise, of Tampa, Fla.

The festival's artisan marketplace will have more than 100 artists and crafters this year, Paradise said.

Shoppers can find items reflective of the Renaissance period to the present day.

Thomas and Annette Felmley of Delmont, owners of Group 66 Designs Inc., will have a booth selling jewelry with Celtic or Irish designs.

Thomas Felmley said they have been festival vendors for 13 years.

This year, he said, the couple will offer more rustic copperwork and more pieces with faceted stones.

“All my pieces are real precious metals or real gemstones,” said Thomas Felmley, who added they range in price from $15 to $400.

Like the other vendors, the Felmleys can be found in full Renaissance dress. Thomas Felmley also officiates a “period-correct church service” on Sundays during the festival at 10:45 a.m. at the chapel on the grounds.

He said he and his wife and daughter, Leia, 6, all enjoy the show, where they already know many of the other vendors and the performers.

“It's like a village but like a carnival at the same time,” said Felmley, 48.

Paradise said one reason the festival attracts so many people is its themed weekends.

The opening weekend welcomes in the king and queen, as well as the rest of the royal court and the cast of villagers. The next two themes, in order, are a children's weekend, with special activities focusing on princes, princesses and pirates; and “Wine Revelry!” — with a grape-stomping contest and wine sampling.

“(People) love it,” Paradise said about the grape stomping. “You don't get to do that very often. That's what's neat about our events. It's something different.”

The fourth weekend is “Irish Festivalis!” — complete with Irish dancing, music and beer, and the fifth weekend is “Celtic Fling!” — featuring Scottish pipe bands and other Celtic musicians.

The final weekend is dedicated to celebrating Oktoberfest with German food, music and dancing.

Regardless of the weekend, plenty of entertainment is available.

Along with street performers, patrons can find more than 20 acts on six different stages every festival day, Paradise said.

One of the new entertainers this year is The Great Rondini, an escape artist and magician from Key West, Fla.

Old favorites, such as combatting jousters, sword-fighting duelists, the “Cast in Bronze” carillon and Temujin the Storyteller are returning.

Temujin Ekunfeo, 62, who has been telling stories since he was 17, said he plans to share a variety of tales — funny, scary or love-themed.

“I never choose the stories (in advance). It depends on who's sitting in front of me. I just feel what the audience is (feeling),” said Ekunfeo, of Pittsburgh's Beltzhoover neighborhood.

He has performed at events from Nova Scotia in Canada to Texas to Florida.

Ekunfeo, who studied history and anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, can be found on stage or walking throughout festival grounds in costume, including several pounds of traditional African beads.

He said most people don't expect to see an African character at the festival, but the Moorish occupation of Spain and other parts of Europe led to an African influence in that part of the world.

“There was a strong African presence in Europe during the medieval period,” Ekunfeo said. His stories reflect a large variety of cultures and periods.

“Not only do I get a chance to entertain, I get a chance to teach people,” he said.

And people hoping to entertain their palates will find plenty to eat.

First-time vendor Lori Hughes, who will operate Royal Oaks Fyne Foods eatery and bakery, said she will be offering typical “festival food,” such as calzones, gyros, funnel cakes, fried dough and a variety of bakery items.

“Everyone loves to eat festival foods. I know when I go to a festival, that is what I love to do,” said Hughes, of Smithton.

She will operate the business with her husband Steve; daughter Chelsey, 21; and son, Jesse, 17. Her mother, Cricket Davis, also of Smithton, is making bakery items to sell, something she has been doing for years.

Hughes, who also works in public relations for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, has been a longtime supporter of the event and said her whole family gets involved in some way.

“I live for the Renaissance festival,” said Hughes, 47.

New rides include a big swing and a boat swing, all man-powered, which would be reflective of the period, Paradise said.

The festival website — www.pittsburghrenfest.com — has a program so people can plan their visit in advance.

“It's a full day of entertainment for a great cost,” Paradise said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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