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Arts & Entertainment

Hark, it's time again for Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

| Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011

Cue the trumpeters.

Alert the jousters.

Tell the Washing Well Wenches to haul out their laundry tubs.

On Saturday, the gates to Westmorelandshire will open again to welcome visitors to the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival.

This annual event transforms a sunny hillside and the adjoining tree-covered valley into a fantasy 16th-century English village with its annual fair in full bloom.

For the six weekends between Saturday and Sept. 25, attendees can immerse themselves in a world of carillon concerts, fire-eaters, escape artists and jugglers.

Browsers will find more than 80 stalls loaded with artisans wares such as jewelry, carved candles, pottery and stained glass.

Would-be pirates and princesses will discover rides, activities and entertainers geared to the youngest of attendees and have the opportunity to meet King Henry, Queen Anne and their courtiers.

"We bring different entertainment to the market," says Jim Paradise, director of marketing for the festival. "People are looking to get outside, and get away from everyday life. This is the perfect escape to get out, laugh and experience something different."

One of the elements that makes the festival popular is that, in addition to a schedule of performances, adults get to encounter, mingle, and interact with the performers as they stroll around the grounds and offer impromptu exhibits of their talents.

"The Renaissance Festival has a belief in outdoor, buskeresque ambiance. Our audience likes to be part of something that is buskeresque," Paradise says. "Audience participation makes people laugh. It's neat to see the way (performers) interact with the audience."

Festival veterans will recognize many of the returning acts such as the bagpipers and drummers known as Celtic Commotion, the Cast in Bronze concerts of four-tons of carillon bells, hypnotist Rick Stratton and comedy teams such as the Washing Well Wenches and the German Brothers.

Also returning is Wilsome Great Balls of Fire who will be attempting to break the Guinness Book record for the most fire eaten in 30 seconds. "The record is 38 torches in 30 seconds," Paradise says.

Joining them will be an assortment of new acts that range from the incautious thrills of sword-swallowing, bed-of-glass-tredding Damien Blade and the acrobatic duo known as the Legendary Danger League to the gentler delights of Pittsburgh-based Temujin the Storyteller and Father Goose and Feathered Friends, which features a gaggle of live geese that give special hugs.

"Buy into it, and I promise you'll have a good time," Paradise says.

Additional Information:

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

When: Saturday through Sept. 25. 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Sept. 5

Admission: $16.95; $8 for ages 5-12; free for those younger than 5

Where: 112 Renaissance Lane, West Newton

Details : 724-872-1670 or www.pgh-renfest.com

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