Friday, 6 June 2014

Ye Olde thrills and laughs at the Oxford Renaissance Festival

Written by Geoff Dale

While Greg Schuurman may enjoy the traditional barbecues and afternoon ballgames associated with the Father’s Day weekend, he’s offering the family patriarch and his clan something a little different with a medieval twist.
It’s the 2nd annual Oxford Renaissance Festival June 13-15 in Woodstock, an event where you might bump into a Ned Stark (with or without his head), a wandering Merlin, the fair maiden Guinevere, hot breathed fire-eaters, gallant horsemen armed with lances fearlessly jousting or perhaps even catch a glimpse of those Pythonesque Knights who say Ni (the keepers of the sacred words – Ni, Peng and Nee-Wom).
For Schuurman, a lifelong devotee of all things medieval and a frequent attendee at the old Ontario Renaissance Festival in Milton, the festival is just the way to pump some excitement into dear old dad’s special weekend, enjoying the sights and sounds of ye olden times with family, friends – new and old.
Last year the event, held rain or shine, attracted more than 4,000 to the Woodstock Fairgrounds and Schuurman says the 2014 outing will offer even more events, performers, musicians and tasty cuisine and thirst quenching ales from days gone-by.
“There’s no question that shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones, various incarnations of the Robin Hood legend and the BBC’s Merlin help keep the interest alive,” he said. “People really can’t seem to get enough of this period; in fact pretty well all of the States have at least one festival every year. We like to present our show with an added touch of humour, the kind you might see in one of the Monty Python movies or the Mel Brooks film Men in Tights.
“We’ve added a pub night this time around with lots of food and drink and, with some of our returning participants, there will be many new acts. For those students who have an interest in the subject and are studying the history as part of their school curriculum, there is a strong educational element. So we have all bases covered – fun, excitement and learning along the way.”

The line-up, with returning and new acts is impressive, varied and designed to appeal to all ages, with a wide variety of unique vendors and booths, minstrels and renaissance characters wandering through the crowds.
Some of the acts include:
The Knights of Valor, the full-contact jousting troupe making its way back to Oxford County that rides fast and hard, while hitting even harder. A show that focuses on horsemanship, bravery and chivalry, prompts Schuurman to remind all of us that this ‘ain’t no dinner show, folks.’
Last year’s death-defying rides were highlighted by a double unhorsing courtesy of a Father-Son match on Father’s Day.
New this year will be the daring feats of bizarre geek strength and stunts of sheer stupidity from the truly ‘adequate’ Zoltan the Adequate. His performance will feature playing with fire, swallowing four-foot balloons and a great deal more unusual demonstrations guaranteed to ‘bamboozle you about the deception and deceive you about the delusion.’
Men in Tights will return to perform fractured classics from Shakespeare to Mother Goose, while the Splatter Time Players, young men that have dedicated their lives to mud and entertainment, will make a mess of everyone and everything within striking distance.

Illuminair Entertainment, an independent Toronto-based performance troupe, will be adding an aerial silk show to their show this year. Meanwhile the Canadian Raptor Conservancy will be on hand to thrill spectators with free-flight demonstrations. Each fully trained bird is unique in its own appearance and flight style – all of this accompanied by an educational commentary from the handlers.
With music an integral part of the event, this year’s program will feature some unique performers like The Stone Clovers, an Irish Folk Rock ensemble from Worchester, MA specializing in traditional/contemporary Irish music and original music.  Their songs speak to the Irish emigrant’s experience and the Irish-Americans’ reverence for their heritage. The sound is unique, augmented by the flavours of rock, jazz, blues, funk, reggae and other styles.
One of the most highly anticipated acts is the Cu Dubh Tribe, a group of musicians, dancers and artists that marries the stirring sounds of ancient thundering warm drums with skirling dual bagpipes. The performances reflect Viking, pagan, druid, Celt and Moor traditions, influenced by the Highlands of Scotland, Gaul, Norway, Britney, Wales, Ireland, Germany, Arabia, India and Africa.
Their live performances are graced with some of the best Middle Eastern Dancers in the world such as Petite Jamilla, Nathalie Tedrick and Colleen Anderson of the Bellydance Super Stars.
“The feedback we got last year was incredible,” said Schuurman. “We want to provide the best entertainment for all ages and, of course around this time of year, everyone’s dad. Rain or shine, this is a family day that appeals to men, women, parents, grandparents and young children. Our goal is fun – some chills, thrills and lots of laughs – for the whole family.”
Further information on times, costs, contact information and more is available on the website - The Facebook page is
[Photos courtesy of the Oxford Renaissance Festival]
This article originally appeared online at The Beat Magazine.

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