It can be difficult to come up with fresh material after 37 years — that’s how long the village of Holly, the home of the Michigan Renaissance Festival, has been entertaining crowds with wenches, knights and princesses in a forested grove off Dixie Highway.
But that’s the challenge organizers, performers and merchants enjoy the most, said Maria Christian, the festival’s entertainment director as well as a character in the village.
“We’ve got everything from elves to fairies to queens. It’s like walking into a storybook,” Christian said. “Even if the script is similar it’s never the same because we use the audience as part of the script. And that’s never the same. And the audience contribution is priceless.”
New additions include a couples’ contest, a baby-crawling competition, another huge joust and other performances within the 17-acre village. For young lovers, there is the new Wedding Wars, an event where four couples compete to see which duo knows each other better and works as a team. The winners walks away with an on-site wedding or vow renewal, tickets to the Feast of Fantasy and a honeymoon getaway to one of seven Outdoor Adventure locations.
The “Race for the Rattle” is a baby-crawling competition aimed at the smallest festival visitors, Christian said. The babies line up and race toward the prize. “The dads tend to get a little competitive, but that’s OK,” she added.
The Michigan Renaissance Festival began in 1979 and attracted 11,000 patrons during the five-weekend event. Today, the festival attracts nearly 250,000 during its run, which started Aug. 22 and continues through Oct. 4.
The festival takes place within the confines of a 16th-century village with building reproductions of Renaissance shops, taverns and castles. There are 17 themed stages with entertainment ranging from full-contact armored jousting to bawdy comedy shows and musical performances. More than 300 merchants also are on site, selling food, clothing, art and more.
“We have so many performers who have honed their skills here over years — they create a fantastic ensemble,” Christian said. “They are true artists in their own right.”
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
Saturday-Monday, weekends through Oct. 4
12600 Dixie Highway, Holly
Tickets $21.95 adults
$19.95 seniors and students
$12.95, children 5-12