Tennessee Renaissance Festival Has Begun, Here’s What’s New This Year

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Photo by Lee Rennick

The Tennessee Renaissance Festival has begun – it takes place every Saturday and Sunday in May plus Monday, Memorial Day. It’s the perfect kick-off event for summer. The festival takes place at 2135 Newcastle Rd in Arrington.

Last year Williamson County Parks and Recreation took ownership of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Over the last year, they have made a number of changes. These changes include finding ways to enhance the flow for visitors, offering more shady areas, adding some new vendors and entertainment, and making extensive repairs to some of the old staging. But the biggest change is the entrance. There is now a large tented gate allowing visitors to pass through to the grounds much more quickly.

“In the next couple of years, we plan to give the entrance a more Renaissance look,” explained Kerri Hudson, Public Information Coordinator, Williamson County Parks and Recreation.

They have also done extensive work on the grounds. Most noticeable are the wider walkways that have been re-graveled, oiled and compacted. There is a lot less dust and much more room for visitors to walk. Also, each pathway has been given a name, there are street signs, and street names are listed on the program map to make it easier to find merchants and activities.

Esthetics have been enhanced, like moving several metal sculptures that were on the grounds around so they are more visible, repairing and enhancing the many performance stages, adding a fountain to the small pond behind the Trader’s Gate Stage, and adding more flowers and greenery. 

To keep things green, they have also added a more extensive irrigation system. This allows the fairy garden to now have more grass. This new green space will be used for Fairy Classes for kids 10 and under every day of the fair at 11:30 a.m. The classes include Fairy Dancing and Fairy Games.

Across from the Fairy Garden sits what is now called the Royal Garden. Here the queen and her court have lunch at noon. Once part of the Fairy Garden, it too now has a nice green lawn and there are stone benches and lovely flowers. 

Without the creative merchants and entertaining players, the festival would be nothing, so Williamson County Parks and Recreation has made a point of maintaining the relationships with those that have been coming to the festival for years, while also bringing in some new ones. 

“We added a glass blower this year,” explained Hudson. “He does demonstrations four times a day. Yesterday [the first day of the event] his benches were packed and people were standing wherever they could to see, so we added some more benches for today.” Even those benches filled up at the demonstrations on Sunday.

Jeremy Thomas of Dragons’ Breath Glassworks, has been making glass objects for 17 years. He offers everything from Witch Balls to beautiful glass vases that glitter in the sunlight to glass ale tankards. He can be contacted at [email protected]. 

“Our most popular items include the glass flowers and the stemless wine glasses,” explained Thomas,” but our signature piece is a stemless wine glass held by a skeletal hand. Each of the fingers has to be placed on the glass individually.“

Other new vendors include Sea Song Designs. Owner Misti Bernard handmakes pearl and gemstone necklaces and offers very unique pocket watches. She even produces commissioned pieces for brides and their bridal parties, as well as offering her unique pocket watches as gifts for the groomsmen. Her Instagram is @seasongdesign. 

“I made two necklace sets for my niece when she got married,” said Bernard, “so she had a choice. The one she didn’t choose was made from pearls and semi-precious stones. Very unusual. I brought it with me and a woman just fell in love with it yesterday and bought it.” 

A long-time returning vendor is Legacy Forge. While its home base is in Alvarado, Texas, it is actually a guild of freelance armorers from around the country who make each of the pieces by hand using high carbon spring steel. The weaponry is stage combat ready, which means the blades are dulled. They also carry sharpened knives and axes to be used for camping or hunting.

While the kid’s rides have been removed from the mix, they have added many more games, especially those that take advantage of the current interest in axe and knife throwing. There is also the chance to throw tomatoes at a guy who heckles the crowd.

Everyone’s favorite acts are returning to the various stages, including Secret Commonwealth and Empty Hats. A new stage combat troop has been added, called Lords of the Edge, who also do sword swallowing.

Jousting Freelancers are returning to the field, as will the Knightwings Birds of Prey, but an old favorite is returning, the Human Combat Chess Match. It’s kind of like Harry Potter Wizard Chess but with real people.

The very popular Queen’s Tea, begun last year, will also be returning with some enhancements, like more space and more entertainment. 

As in past years, there is a theme for each weekend. The first weekend was Viking Weekend. There were many Viking hoards tromping the grounds. It will be followed by Fantasy and Folklore Weekend, Pirate Plunder Weekend, and the final weekend theme will be a Celtic Celebration. 

Every day at 3:00 p.m. there will be a Costume Showcase at the Hammerbeam Inn, located in the center of the grounds. Also, check out the scavenger hunt called the Queen’s Quest. And the second weekend there will be a Fairy Habitat and Hobbit House Competition. Castle Tours run between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily. The new, enhanced website has more details. 

Whether you have gone for many years, or are a newbie, make sure to check out the website before you go. Some of the activities require additional fees and reservations, like the Fairy Lessons and the Queen’s Tea. There are still spaces available for the last two weekends, but they are filling up quickly. Also, look for the new Ambassador Pass offering special perks.

Queen Elizabeth I and her court bid everyone Huzzah, and look forward to seeing the community visit Covington Glen at the 37th Annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival.