Medieval Faire

Dungeons, dragons in spotlight
at Renaissance Faire

Permanent structures to be built in
Henry County for summerlong activities

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

EMINENCE, Ky. (February 2006) – Agri-tourism has come to Henry County in the form of the Highlands Renaissance Festival. This family-oriented event carries the theme of a medieval faire and is projected to bring commerce and industry to the county for six consecutive weekends this summer.

Jousting Event

File photo by Helen E. McKinney

A jousting event takes place at last year’s Renaissance Festival. Organizers
are expanding the program in 2006.

Along with his wife, Linda, Ed Frederick is general manager of Kentucky Renaissance Faire, LLC. This is the organization responsible for staging the Highlands Renaissance Festival, which will portray a county fair of the 1300s. Many refer to such events as a “Ren. Faire,” where a living history village will be constructed to showcase history, art, music and all manner of things reminiscent of the medieval lifestyle.
It is a form of agri-tourism, offering period food, wares, acoustic music, games, comedic skits, singalongs and jousting events that were all common to the Renaissance period of English history. Vendors will travel from California, Colorado, Virginia, Minnesota and elsewhere to participate, organizers say.
The Ren. Faire will occupy several permanent structures, including a dining pavilion, stages and a jousting field. Fifty percent of the booths will be permanent. An eight-foot fence will be constructed around the complex that will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from June 3 through July 9.
The Ren. Faire will be located on 117 acres on Hwy. 22 on the outskirts of Eminence, Ky. The land is owned by Gene Halloway, and only 25 acres will comprise the living history village. The rest of the acreage will be used for parking, vendor camping and a farmer’s market.
Frederick had searched for a site and found Henry County to be “the best demographically.” A Midway, Ky., resident, Frederick said this would be “the only permanent site faire in Kentucky.”
The University of Kentucky School of Design, Department for Historic Preservation, has designed this project “based on various bits of streetscapes of old cities in Europe,” said Frederick. Activities will take place in the center of the village, with booths on the outside.
This spoke design will make it unique, said project manager Michael Spencer. He said the layout differs from other Ren. Faires, and Frederick was easy to work with and open to new, cooperative ideas for the project.
Spencer said the UK School of Design tackled this project from a historic preservation angle, “incorporating the historical character of medieval buildings all over Europe,” yet with a modern design. A Main Street area lined with stores will lead to a market area, which will branch out to larger exhibit areas.
Being preservationists, Spencer said his UK design team wanted to preserve historical accuracy, while Frederick also wanted a realistic Ren. Faire that would draw modern-day residents and tourists to Henry County. “There is a thin line between accuracy and the fantasy world,” said Spencer, but he hopes this is meshed through the design of the Ren. Faire Village.
Spencer said a number of Ren. Faire sites were visited to bring validity to the faire. He said Frederick pushed to keep the park-like setting of the area. This environment contains trees, a creek and a winding road leading to the village that is a prelude to what lies ahead on the site. When complete, this will be a viable park “we want people to come to and have fun,” said Spencer.
Frederick takes an active part in recreating history himself by re-enacting “anything Scottish,” he said. He and his wife are Lexington, Ky., natives, and having lived elsewhere, they realized first-hand that “this is a very big thing in other parts of the country,” he said.
Along the I-71 corridor from Louisville to Cincinnati are a lot of different historical events and festivals, said Frederick. “It’s amazing. A lot of people have to travel out of state,” to view and actually participate in these events, he said. There are about 168 Ren. Faires in the United States.
Spencer said Frederick wanted to promote the living history aspect of this project for the school systems. Frederick was concerned with the accuracy of the buildings so that students could study the architectural elements of the time period.
Pat Wallace, executive director of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, visited a similar Ren. Faire in Ohio when she taught senior English. “It gives you a better feel for the time period,” she said. “It’s hard to sit in 2006 and imagine” life in the 1300s. Her students were able to view Shakespeare and the Knights of the Round Table.
Wallace said this Ren. Faire is a “wonderful fit” for the county because it is such a historical area. She hopes Henry County history will take its place among the various historical portrayals and activities.
Tim Abrams, superintendent for Henry County Public Schools, said the Ren. Faire will be an “awesome opportunity for our students and students in surrounding areas. They will have the ability to experience that era of time in our own county.”
In the past, high school students have traveled to the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg, Ohio, a Ren. Faire-type amusement park for a day-long field trip. The trip to this site north of Cincinnati provided real-life historical experiences, while fulfilling Humanities curriculum guidelines, said Abrams.
Abrams doesn’t see a single disadvantage to the Ren. Faire, calling it “good, clean fun for families in the area.”
Special events are in the planning stages for other times of the year also, to make the best use of the site. A Halloween Fall Festival will give the village a spooky, haunted atmosphere, and local artisans can sell their wares during a Christmas in the country-themed event. Frederick said he would even like to do some type of a Charles Dickens’ Christmas event with a feast.
Approximately $70,000 to $75,000 will be set aside for advertising, officials saud. Such heavy advertising will promote the Ren. Faire in trade publications, television, radio, billboards and newspapers.
This project is sure to boost tourism and the county economy, providing seasonal and full-time jobs. Local businesses are expected to benefit as well, with the camped vendors spending money on gas, groceries and restaurants. Frederick said he is hoping to offer season passes for the living history village. Admission will be $12 for adults and $6 for children.

• For more information, visit: www.kyrenfaire.com.

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