At the sound of the cannon, kings, queens, lords and ladies gather to celebrate the 16th century’s most anticipated event: The Florida Renaissance Festival.
“Open the gates, sound the cannon and let the festival begin!” shouts the regal-looking Adolfo Herrera of Miami, who plays King Ferdinand of Aragon for the fifth year in a row.
It might be make-believe for some, but not for 5-year-old Rebecca Lambright – in awe of Herrera in his regalia. She picks up her black and gold princess dress and curtsies to the king.
“I am a real princess,” declares Rebecca, as she shows off her make-up and jewelry. “I really like this place and my mom keeps bringing me here.”
Her mom, Bella Barro of West Palm Beach, enjoys the period role-playing by fairgoers and organizers. She, too, dresses up as a princess and has been doing so for the past four years.
“I like that people can be their nerdy selves here — and that’s OK,” Barro said. “I want my daughter to be open to new things.”
The festival, which is home to the wenches, elves and knights in shining armor, is the perfect place to dress up and become part of the Renaissance Era.
Hundreds stream into Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach to witness jousting tournaments, sword fights, magical illusion shows, a mud show and gypsy dancers.
For John Peters of Boynton Beach, the festival is more than just an entertaining afternoon — it has become a family tradition. This year he brought two of his daughters, including Caitlin Peters, 8, who suffers from lissencephaly, a rare brain formation disorder.
“She’s in a wheelchair but I wanted to do something that would make her part of the festival; I looked it up online and found a cool magic carpet idea,” said Peters, who designed the costume that covered Caitlin’s wheelchair and transformed her into a princess in a magic carpet.
Her sister, 9-year-old Brianna Peters, also dressed up, but down. “Last year I didn’t get to go on anything because I had a dress on, so now I’m a hunter,” Brianna said. “I have pants on and I’m really, really happy.”
Trumpeters, drummers and fiddlers perform in various stages throughout the park while visitors can play human chess and watch glass blowers.
“I think the people who dress up are pretty interesting, not something I see everyday,” said Dan Grant, a first-time festival-goer.
But it’s the knights in shining armor dueling in sword battles that draw some of the biggest crowds.
Among other traditions at the festival are large turkey drumsticks and the cold grogs of beer, which make up the meal of choice.
The festival also features adult stand-up comedy, and plenty of clothing and jewelry from a long-ago era.
“It’s the time of the year that we can act crazy and act like we never act,” Ron Black of Sunrise said. “We know it’s ridiculous but it’s fun and we love it.”
The fair moves to Miami-Dade’s historic Cauley Square Historic Village March 30 through April 14.