Renaissance Festival returns with old favorites and new disappointments

Sarah Fulton, managing editor

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The familiar musty smell, half-naked people and turkey legs bigger than a forearm greeted me once again as I walked through the gates of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Ren Fest is a Kansas City staple and a staple in my life. I have attended almost every year since I was little, and hold a fond place for it in my heart. However, this year I was not only greeted by my old favorites, but also some new additions.

The first and most obvious addition was the multitude of new acts. The change in lineup originally had me excited, but after viewing the shows most failed to meet the standard of past performances.

However, one new act that met my standards was a group called the Foole Monty. They are an improv comedy troupe who appropriately call their show: “Who Doth Say It Anyway.” Sitting waiting for their show to begin, I noticed that the group had no backdrop or props set out. Their seeming lack of preparation gave me low expectations. I expected them to be pointless, juvenile and cheesy. To my surprise the four members of the act play simple party games that somehow end up being hilarious. They were juvenile and cheesy in all the right ways. One game they played was making a movie from a famous fairytale. Three members of the act would act out this fairytale and the fourth would act as a director, stopping the scene to give directions from the audience. One guys ended up with a lawnmower Liberace fairy god mother and another a Harry Potter Cinderella. Their act was by no means a masterful performance, but it was funny and a nice break from all the walking and juggling.

While only one new act seemed worth my time, almost all of the older acts continued to impress.

Dr. Dumpe has been at the Ren Fest since the very first year I have gone. His act changes a little each year, the hilarity has always remained. While he has a traditional juggling skill set, he also involves the audience and makes them laugh. He has a host of different outfits that he somehow manages to incorporate into the show. One year, Dumpe hid in the audience and forced everyone to clap enthusiastically to draw in more people. Once the audience size had grown significantly, he reemerged from the audience much to the surprise of the new audience members and the hilarity of the original audience. He is a Ren Fest staple and well worth the half an hour of time you spend watching his show.

Also a Ren Fest staple is The King’s Falconers, a bird of prey act where specialists from the World Bird Sanctuary brings different birds out and let them fly from person to person, directly over the audience. Besides having a falcon fly directly over you, the show is a little boring. It consists of mainly one woman telling facts about the different birds and making a plea for the audience to donate money to the Sanctuary. However, it is truly original and kids are fascinated by having birds that close to them.

While the birds of prey may be for the kids, the Washing Well Wenches are a good time for those 13 and older. Women dressed in peasant outfits with blacked-out front teeth make a point to embarrass the men in the audience. While telling dirty jokes, they send selected male members males of the audience and force them into the crowd of people walking by to yell ridiculous things. One young man, who could not have been more than 20, had to give a speech about how he was sensitive and okay with it. As the signs surrounding their stage declare, the Wenches are a load of hot, dirty, fun women.

I did not always appreciate the dirty women at the festival. At the end of all the pirate acts I attended, women stuck dollar bills into their shirt and walked up to the pirate men who then took the money out with their mouths. It was honestly disgusting and I hope no kids saw it.

Similarly disgusting was the constant cloud of smoke, I had to endure. There are no designated smoking area and smokers have full range to smoke anywhere they pleased. Several times I had to reposition myself during a show to try and avoid inconsiderate smokers.

If you make sure to avoid smokers and keep any kids’ safely inside the kids area, then Ren Fest is a must. Through all the shows and rooming actors, Ren Fest is an interactive experience well worth the $20 for a ticket. Not to mention, that it is  has become a Kansas  City tradition over the past 35 years.

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