The Texas Renaissance Festival, a special event among Aggies, is open through Nov. 29 with heightened safety operations in response to COVID-19.
The festival is the largest Renaissance-themed event in the nation, entertaining half a million guests annually across its nine weekends. The festival is located in Todd Mission, just 45 minutes from Texas A&M’s campus. It is set as a 16th-century European village called “The Village of New Market” and covers over 60 acres of land. Attendees are immersed in a historical setting featuring 400 on-site shops, 21 stages for live entertainment, rides, games, interactive characters, renowned performers and food and drinks from over 100 vendors.
The Renaissance Festival has been a shared experience among A&M students, faculty and staff ever since its early years of operation. English professor Margaret Ezzel reflects on her experiences at the TRF nicely.
“Unfortunately, we haven't been to the Festival in a number of years,” Ezzel said. “It was a fun thing to take guests to, especially those from out of the country, and we enjoyed all the craft shops, the hawks and of course, the food.”
Jennifer Wollock, an English professor and medievalist, said she remembers attending the festival in the 1980s to get an interactive experience while studying Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”
“I went down with a friend of mine and had a nice time experiencing the festival,” Wollock said. “There was a very professional chap there who had a falcon and was talking to people about falconry hunting, and he was very knowledgeable about these birds. I was happy. You really do meet people at the Renaissance Festival who are knowledgeable specialists who have studied particular aspects of life in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, like falconry.”
Wollock also took careful notice of the vast historical periods the festival commemorates.
“The festival is a fascinating thing,” Wollock said. “You never know who or what is going to turn up. The festival is a bit of a mish-mash because there are people there who are getting a kick out of different parts of the middle ages... from about year 500 to the year 1500. You go all the way from the time of Beowulf and Vikings to the time of Henry the VIII of the early 16th century, which is the [time] I really think they’re thinking of at the Renaissance Festival.”
Second-year TRF marketing communications manager Marlena Solomon said the Texas Renaissance Festival’s entire experience is what makes the immersive event unique.
“You can literally embark on a culinary tour of food from around the world, including England, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Poland and Spain,” Solomon said. “Our performers are world renowned, and some have had the honor of entertaining presidents and dignitaries during their careers.”
Solomon said TRF’s patrons are mostly from the greater Houston area but the festival also draws attendees from across the nation and other countries. Many of the TRF’s patrons, vendors and performers also travel a circuit of Renaissance festivals across the United States throughout the year.
“Many people consider the festival a home away from home,” Solomon said. “They come dressed in costume and also promote the festival because it’s a place that they love, and the people are their fair family… They cry when the final firework of the season explodes in the sky, and they immediately set their calendars for the next season’s opening day.”
Solomon said A&M is always seen represented on the festival’s grounds.
“If people don’t come to the festival in garb [costume], we often see students and alumni proudly wearing their A&M gear in support of the school,” Solomon said.
Solomon also said TRF has been taking precautions to ensure maximum safety during the pandemic, especially since the festival is such a large event.
“When COVID[-19] happened, our general manager and operations director worked closely with Todd Mission and Grimes County officials to author safety guidelines to open the festival the safest way possible, not only for our patrons, but for our TRF staff, vendors and performers,” Solomon said. “This includes temperature checks, regular cleaning of high touch areas, decontamination of festival areas each night and implementing date-specific tickets to track attendance that is figured at 50 percent capacity, or 22,500 per day.”
The Texas Renaissance Festival will be open for the next three weekends with different themes each week. Tickets and more information can be found here.