The Colorado Renaissance Festival


Photograph taken by Lilah Claycomb

Larkspur’s very own sword swallower shows off his ability to balance a blade on a swallowed sword.

Lilah Claycomb, Staff Writer

In May 1963, Los Angeles schoolteacher Phyllis Patterson and her husband Ron Patterson, presented the first “Renaissance Pleasure Faire” as a one-weekend fundraiser for a radio station called KPFK, and around 8,000 people showed up. That was one of the first renaissance festivals ever and since then, the fairs have exponentially grown in popularity. They are typically based in the English renaissance–specifically during the reign of Elizabeth I and entertain many forms of English fantasy. Today, the fairgrounds hold all kinds of whimsically dressed patrons, from fairies to robed Assassin’s Creed cosplayers.

On Sunday, August 22, my family and I decided to go to the Larkspur Renaissance Festival. We went on the last day so we got the full experience of emotional performers, upset about ending, but that only enhanced the experience. After all, the renaissance was the period of drama. Welcome Ladies, Lords, to the renaissance!

When we first arrived we found the entrance guarded by witty, costumed greeters. After walking through the gates we were met with the sounds of the streets. Bar Keepers would yell different things pretending to be drunk, singing, commenting on each other’s work, having loud conversations, and heckling EVERYONE. There were elaborately dressed street performers on blankets. Blade and coin forges emitted loud bangs, fizzes, and clashes, and whistles that sounded like birds were being sold and used by enthusiastic children.

Then there were the costumes.

The staff members were dressed in medieval costumes, of course, but the real show was presented by the visitors. There were costumed representations of the four horsemen, witch doctors, pirates, sages, mages, and knights in full armor. There were other non-European warriors like Vikings (some with very little clothing), Spartans, and gods.

A new concept was introduced to us as well. Cosplayers were showing up as canon characters. Assassins Creed costumes, anime characters, and even some people from musicals and plays were wandering around eating giant slices of pizza or cheering for performers.

And, boy, were there plenty of events for them to cheer for. There were about five stages around the festival grounds, each running close to four acts. Additionally, interactive performances ensued in the streets and market stalls.

The first thing we saw and heard when we walked through the gate was a group of musicians in kilts. They were playing the bagpipes, drums, and flutes and one man was singing his heart out. I would say it was beautiful and historically accurate, but they were playing “Here Comes The Sun.” Still, that was an excellent way to be introduced to the performances.

When the musicians left the stage they were replaced by an elaborately dressed woman with way too many feathers in her hair. Though we could not hear most of what she was saying, we could hear the audience who was roaring with laughter. Many other howls and snorts rang throughout the streets brought on by the MANY comedy acts.

There were a few exceptions, however. The acrobats, a young man and a young woman dressed in sparkly costumes, always received full, genuine laughs when they joked and though their humor seemed a bit unconventional, the audience loved it.

There were plenty of other acts too, including my personal favorite, the sword swallower. Cy the Sword Swallower was quite an impressive performer, with great people skills and a taste for danger. I have seen a ton of sword swallowers, which I understand is odd, but swords are cool, so I don’t really care. However, Cy was by far the best I have ever seen. Not only could he swallow swords, whether they were curved or zigzagged, he could also juggle them and engage in other blade-based acts that honestly scared the living daylights out of me. For example, he hammered a nail into his nose then pulled it out, which resulted in a horrendous sound that I do not wish to describe. Then he swallowed three swords at once, and then he ate candy off of cutlasses while juggling them.

His show stopper was especially nerve-wracking. He balanced a frighteningly large sword on the butt of another sword while he was swallowing it. All around I would give Cy’s show a 10/10. You can see it for yourself by visiting, which he recommended we do when the show ended.

After we saw that show, we moved on to navigate the rest of the festival. Of course, we were not disappointed. We passed the typical carnival entertainment: mini cradles, “hit the target for a prize” games, and a giant swing. Some of the other games were more appropriate like the crossbow shooting and the stocks where people were throwing tomatoes and insulting some poor employee.

Perhaps the best part of the festival was the food. There were all of the basics like pizza, fries, soda, and ice cream. And, of course, a renaissance festival has to have renaissance food, and it did. There were huge drum sticks, overflowing mugs of beer, meat pies, and ears of corn. There was Greek cuisine like kabobs and gyros.
By far the best foods there were incredibly odd. For example, there were artichokes. Just whole artichokes. There were also carts of odd foods like alligator jerky and fried ice cream, and the best odd food in the entire festival were the pickles from the pickle cart. Yes, there was a pickle cart, though it was not like the other carts in that it was on the move the whole time, traveling the dust roads leaving a strong smell of pickles. The pickle cart was manned by a very friendly pickle man. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of the pickle man and his pickle cart due to his busy schedule. He has many pickles to sell and people to please.

I also have to give a shoutout to the frozen bananas, which are now my favorite food. I have to warn you, however, that they are an acquired taste.

So, bottom line, the food is amazing. Unfortunately, people were not coming for the food; they were coming for the stuff. Renaissance shops are the best.
There was beautifully made clothing like dresses and tunics sewn with jewels and paired with bejeweled skirts and headdresses. And then there was the jewelry, including crowns, rings, elf ear earrings, necklaces, and a few jeweled veils. Some of that jewelry was made in front of customers with metal pressing in specialized forges or just a simple pair of pliers.

The armor was made in forges as well, along with swords, spears, daggers, and axes. After the swords came out of the forge, they were carried around the festival to one of the four blade shops where people would immediately crowd and buy them and the leather sheaths that were made for them.

The swords were the most popular things there, but there were a lot of kids and adults who didn’t want metal blades, so they also had a shop of wooden swords and shields and a few shops with wands and walking sticks.

There were actually quite a few shops for children or adults who just wanted to have fun. Take the pet stores, for example. Obviously, they weren’t really live pets, though they were certainly realistic. The best ones were feathered dragons that wrapped around your neck and little creatures that sat on your shoulder.

The people that were there for non-costume things were not disappointed either. There were many other shops selling furniture, drinking horns and herbs, incense, and candles. My personal favorite was a tiny store tucked in a cul de sac that was selling roses with gold flakes on the petals.

Walking back to the gate with a frozen banana, I found myself completely satisfied with the experience. We got lost so many times and the weather was sweltering but I was somehow content with the day.

When the Renaissance Festival is back next summer I will be there.

The Colorado Renaissance Festival is held every year in Larkspur, Colorado, just north of Colorado Springs, and is open July-August.