Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival
Good mistresses and good masters: Hail and well met!
When in Rome, or in this case “medieval” Kentucky (better known as Eminence), it is best to speak the language and greet the villagers in the tongue of the Realm. Especially when there are 40,000 to 50,000 such villagers—jousters, fairies, pirates, wenches, Vikings, jesters, peasants—milling about as they do over eight weekends during the family-friendly Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival, taking place this year from June 3 to July 23.
“We have put our hearts and souls into creating this unique experience right here in Henry County, and have watched it grow each year,” says Holly Wilson, director of Kentucky Renaissance Fair.
Wilson’s family, including her husband, Joe, and her parents, Ed and Linda Frederick, operates the festival, which marks its eighteenth year this summer. Huzzah! (Translation: Hurray!)
“Our family is very community-oriented,” says Wilson. “We love our community and being a part of it.”
The festival combines history, pageantry and nearly nonstop entertainment in an open-air village setting, a slice of 1300s Scotland complete with brightly colored tents, castle and cottages, mud pit and marketplace—pillory, too. Surrounded by forest, it is an enchanted world inhabited by hundreds and hundreds of costumed characters, with everyone from vendors to visitors joining the festival cast in dressing up for the period.
Think “medieval county fair,” which is how Ed Frederick, Kentucky Renaissance Fair’s general manager, describes the event, served by Shelby Energy Cooperative. Music, artisan-made arts and crafts, demonstrations, kid-friendly activities, games of skill, comedy, theater and a variety of food and drink are all part of festival fun.
Headlining the list of top attractions are the jousting, mud show, sword swallowing, Viking reenactment and live music.
“We have eight stage areas of live entertainment,” says Wilson.
Favorites among the junior set are the Fairy Forest, maypole, princesses, jousting, creating their own wax hands and archery, not to mention the Dragon Hatchery, a booth selling toy dragons.
Refreshment options are plentiful—from funnel cakes to full meals.
“We do most food inhouse,” says Wilson. “We have a large dining hall called Mikaela’s Inn that sells everything from shepherd’s pie, burgers and fish and chips to Scottish eggs, chicken tenders and more.”
A turkey leg booth tempts with what Frederick calls “five-pound turkey legs,” plus steak on a stick and corn on the cob. A variety of sandwiches, wraps and cheese and fruit plates are available at the sandwich shop.
Additionally, vendors straight out of Scottish warrior king Robert the Bruce’s era set up shop with leather goods, artwork, wooden mugs, clothing, jewelry, toys, crowns and more on display. Glassblowers and blacksmiths add their own works to the treasures, and all are available if your purse be heavy with coin.
The festival’s opening weekend takes place June 3 and 4 and is followed by themed weekends, including Pirate & Children’s Weekend (with discounted admission for children); Viking Weekend—the time to dust off your horned helmet for a chance to win a 2024 season pass; and Tournament Weekend. Closing weekend, also known as Celtic Weekend, takes place July 22 and 23, featuring live Celtic music, dancing and other activities.
Kentucky Renaissance Fair also hosts Celtic Festival & Highland Games, September 16 and 17 this year, and a Charles Dickens Christmas Festival the first two weekends of December. This fall, a new event joins the calendar: A Viking Festival is planned for November 3 to 5.
Don your doublets and slops, corsets and farthingales and come to the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. June 3-July 23, 2023 (Saturdays and Sundays only), at 955 Elm Street in Eminence. Tickets available online and at the gate. Information: (502) 845-9206.
Visit the website for details about themed weekends that include Pirate & Children’s Weekend, Christmas in July and Villains and Heroes, among other themes. Watch a segment filmed for KET’s Kentucky Life television program.