Whether you’re interested in theatrical performances, jousting, authentic medieval wares, or just a good ol’ turkey leg, the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival promises a fun and light-hearted experience.
Get ready to be transported to a time of jousting knights, royal lords and ladies, and rowdy peasants at the 24th annual Oklahoma Renaissance Festival. With whimsical events like jousting, puppetry, and live music and over 140 artisans displaying unique wares and beautiful creations, the Renaissance Festival is worth the drive to Muskogee during one of its six weekends of operation.
Visiting the Renaissance Festival is a bit of a culture shock. You genuinely feel like you are in another time and place for a few hours. That’s because each crew member goes through extensive training to ensure they understand the setting of The Castle and time in 1569 northern England.
Upon entering the gates, you will be greeted with bantering from jokers, kind welcomes from street vendors and an array of costumes in every color of the rainbow.
While jeans and T-shirts are welcome, you will fit in better if you dress as a princess or a knight. If you don’t have your renaissance-style costume, no worries; the Castle has plenty of costumes available for guests to rent.
The Renaissance Festival is a playground for both adults and children. Children will love the children’s realm — a boardwalk that comes to life with fairies and gypsies. Adults will feel like they are children again as they surrender to their imaginations and step back a few centuries for the day. And the beer and wine in abundance don’t hurt, either.
“They should be stepping back into the 16th century of England, and we want to keep them there,” says Jeff Hiller, owner of The Castle of Muskogee. “They don’t need to worry about anything … just what kind of ale they want to drink.”
If it’s your first time to the festival, slow it down and structure your trip. Many people come in and kind of wander; they follow the crowds through the front gate. Make sure you get a program, look at the map, and see the entertainment that they offer. Friendly festival staffers are waiting just inside the entrance with pamphlets listing all of the available shows and events, which run on a carefully timed schedule. Try to arrive at the stage or jousting arena 15-20 minutes early to find a spot in the shade (seriously, the sun can be brutal).
Cheer for your favorite knight during the jousting competition. Observe the acrobats as they perform daring stunts. Throw knives. Throw balls at targets until the heckling wench or jester falls in the drink. Get your palm read. Flirt with someone who is committed to chainmail. But most importantly, give in to the sheer fun of it all.
Wandering around the grounds can fill up a day. There is so much to see, from knights jousting, to food vendors selling period-specific foods like turkey legs and fried potatoes, to colorful peacocks roaming the grounds and a cave reverberating with the sounds of bagpipes.
Hiller says the cave was built specifically so the musicians would have a place to play bagpipes. “We didn’t want them doing that out in the open since our site is only 13 acres. Now, there’s a 14,000-foot cave where people can go and listen to great Scottish bagpipes with the music amplified.”
It’s unlikely you’ll escape a day at the festival without a slight dent in your wallet. Between the artisans selling everything from candles and masks to battle axes and home decor, it’s hard to resist at least one impulse buy. And then there’s the food: pretzels, beer, and the classic turkey leg await you all over the grounds. Luckily, a dollar goes a long way at the festival.
Each year brings new attractions to the Renaissance Festival, and this year, the event will welcome a group called the Washing Well Wenches from Minnesota. “They do a show about cleaning your clothes. It’s hilarious,” Hiller says.
Other new attractions this year include a glass blower from New York and a woman from France skilled in puppetry and mask making.
The Renaissance Festival is undoubtedly a family-friendly event, but Hiller says many adults visit twice — once with their children and once without. There are a few events that are adult-only, such as the King’s Smoker, a destination for folks to enjoy a cigar, drinks, and snacks over jokes and songs. The King’s Smoker is open every Saturday and Sunday.
Also for the adults only is Ceilidh, a Scottish celebration May 18 from 7-9 p.m. ripe with food, dancing, and lassies.
If you plan to bring the kids, there are plenty of fun events for the whole family. The Queen’s Tea is a favorite attraction. Guests of all ages enjoy a formal dining experience with the royal majesty and her ladies in waiting. Tea is held each festival day at 2 p.m. The tea includes sandwiches, desserts, and festive brews. Special guests visit and perform music.
Another special event for the whole family is the King’s Luncheon, a hearty, three-course meal held each festival day at 1 p.m. Magicians, musicians and dancers entertain the crowd while they feast.
Other fun events for all ages include the Masque Ball (May 4 from 7-9 p.m.), and the Pirate’s Feast (May 11 from 7-9 p.m.).
For a long time, the festival lasted four weekends, but it now stretches over six. Hiller says the least crowded weekend is the last weekend of April. Also, Sundays are typically a less crowded day.
While the Renaissance Festival gates open at 10:30 a.m., Hiller says it’s best to arrive around 10 a.m. for good parking. There is a pre-show outside the castle gates that starts shortly after 10 a.m.
The Castle of Muskogee’s Renaissance Festival has grown tremendously over the years, and Hiller says it’s considered one of the top five Renaissance festivals in the country. “We have people come from as far away as Scotland. All of the states are generally represented.”
Oklahoma Renaissance Festival
The Castle of Muskogee
3400 W. Fern Mountain Road | Muskogee
May 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-27
10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
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