Every fall in Sarasota, families have the chance to be transported back into history and interact with kings and queens, peasants and farm workers—and it doesn’t even require a time machine.
Welcome to the ninth annual Sarasota Medieval Fair, where you can enjoy the games, food, drink, battles and atmosphere of Ireland, from the year 999.
“The scenario this year takes place in Ireland, where it’s the Leinster revolt of 999-1000 against the King of Munster, Brian Boru,” said Shannon Bowden, Medieval Fair marketing director. “The festival will prepare you for what will be quite a journey and experience as history reveals itself.”
The Medieval Fair, held at the Sarasota Fairgrounds starting Saturday, consists of what is essentially a traveling play. As you walk through the gates, you enter into a world consisting of people and scenes from the era being portrayed. Historically accurate characters walk through the grounds interacting with each other and with the guests, and the whole day culminates with a big battle at the end.
“The theme is the Battle of Glenn Máma,” Bowden said. “The scenario starts in the morning and you see how the sides come together throughout the day.”
Bowden said that this year, there are four kings, who at the end of each day will meet on the field of battle and decide who will gain final control over Ireland. Dean Bowden, Shannon’s husband and casting director of the fair, will be portraying one of the kings. He says that he has been performing in renaissance and medieval fairs since he was 15 years old.
“It’s a family atmosphere with like-minded people when it comes to loving history and performing,” Bowden said. “Seeing the patrons and the looks on the faces of the kids when they think you’re a real king is what I love about it.”
But the battles are not the only performances to enjoy at the Sarasota Medieval Fair.
Along with returning favorites of entertainers like the FreeLancers Jousting Troupe, The Tortuga Twins, The Washing Well Wenches, and Wolgemut, the fair is sure to have something to entertain everyone, and will even include a history lesson, since the scenario is historically accurate.
“We’re making history interactive,” said Brent Feagans, assistant director of the fair. “These weapons we’re using (in the battles) are a sharp edge away from being a real sword.”
To wield weapons like that for the fight scenes, even if the edges are not sharp, takes a lot of skill and practice. Shannon Bowden said that the female performers train right alongside the men.
“The cast members are trained side by side, and we start from the basics and go to advanced,” she said. “Everyone is trained at the same time in the same way.”
In addition to the battles and shows, you will want to take some time to walk around the fair and enjoy the various artisans in the Artisan Alley. The offerings range from handmade jewelry and stained glass to swords and shields and musical instruments. Some of the vendors will be displaying a “Royal Hand of Excellence Award," which means they will have been chosen for that award for handcrafting all of their wares in their own home studios. You will also be able to enjoy demonstrations of various crafts like blacksmithing, pottery and basket weaving.
Families, historians and fantasy buffs will be sure to love the experience of the Sarasota Medieval Fair.
Sarasota Medieval Fair
Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays—Nov. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Rain or shine.
$16.95 for adults per day; $14.95 for students, seniors, active military; $8.95 for kids 5 to 12 years old