Cabin fever could be setting in just about now.
Our ever-changing weather might have you aching to get outside and get the garden going. But hold off. For one thing the ground is probably still a bit soggy. For another, these warmer days (with forecast highs in the 60s this week) are a false spring, according to area experts.
So, instead of getting out the rake, shovel and hoe, put on some comfortable clothes and good walking shoes for a journey back in time. The 25th Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival begins this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 9 and continues every weekend through Sunday, March 31.
The drawbridge to the 30-acre site, east of Apache Junction on U.S. Hwy. 60, drops at 10 a.m. and goes up at 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, as well as Presidents’ Day, Monday, Feb. 18.
The multi-faceted, fun-filled event is one of the largest of its kind in the United States offering guests a place to revel in the atmosphere of a 16th century European village fair. It has 12 stages featuring music, comedy, falconry, dance and acrobatics and nearly 2,000 costumed entertainers bringing the Renaissance to life.
In addition to the unique entertainment, strange and wonderful wares are offered at more that 200 storybook-like shops, studios and galleries filled with arts, crafts, handmade goods, kitchens and pubs. There are demonstrations of time-honored crafts such as weaving, jewelry making, glass blowing, blacksmithing and pottery throwing.
Plus there are games and people-powered rides. The rides are a special attraction for the festival’s younger guests: Da Vinci’s Flying Machine; The Slider Joust; Piccolo Pony — a rocking horse bigger than an elephant; The Dragon Climbing Tower; Castle Siege; the Maze; Archery Range; and more.
For young and old alike, the live jousting tournaments are one of the festival’s most popular attractions. Armored knights on charging steeds take up their lances and battle three times a day in the 5,000-seat arena.
Food is plentiful and available throughout the village. The menu is diverse with such offerings as steak-on-a-stake, vegetable and meat pies, pastas, bread bowls filled with hearty stews, decadent desserts and more. Smoked turkey legs anyone?
If the gastronomic wonders offered to wandering guests are not enough, there is also the Pleasure Feast.
Twice a day, at noon and 2:30 p.m., a grand, five-course banquet is presented to a limited number of guests. With ample drink, the feast is an hour-and-a-half of raucous Renaissance entertainment at its best.
Feast guests are treated like royalty as the Chef’s kitchen crew and the Feast Master’s boisterous serving wenches and knaves dish up a roaring good time with live music and raucous variety entertainment — the humor is risqué and wildly funny.
The Pleasure Feast begins with music and comedy introductions while the audience enjoys an appetizer consisting of baskets of assorted breads accompanied by Caprese skewers of fresh mozzarella, basil leaf and tomato, along with red grapes, Italian cheeses and an assortment of country Mediterranean olives.
The Feast Master proceeds to introduce the delicious Tuscan bean soup and the salad courses; and then the meats — choice beef tenderloin seasoned with fresh rosemary sprigs and roasted whole clove garlic, roasted to perfection, served with Chianti raspberry balsamic reduction or chicken breast dusted with flour, sautéed until golden then combined with mushrooms and a Marsala wine reduction. Side dishes accompanying the meal include gold and red potatoes and roasted asparagus.
The 90-minute production concludes with a decadent dessert while the Feast Hall staff continues to dish up their emphasis on play acting as well as cooking.
Admission to the five-course Pleasure Feast is $69.95 per person, which includes $22 festival admission for all park events, the five-course dinner and show, plus a souvenir limited edition toasting tankard to take home.
Feast Hall reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (520) 463-2600.
Save on admission with a visit to www.RenFestInfo for more information. Or get discount tickets at Fry’s Food Stores: $20 for adults, $10 for kids ages 5-12, and children under 5 free.
Tickets purchased at the Festival Box Office are $2 more. Discount tickets for seniors (60 and older) are $19, but are only available at the Festival ticket booth. Parking is free courtesy of Fry’s Food Stores.
The Arizona Renaissance Festival is from Saturday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, March 31 (and Monday, Feb. 18), rain or shine at 12601 East U.S. Highway 60, Gold Canyon, Ariz. Call (520) 463-2600 or go to www.RenFestInfo.com for more information.
The festival grounds are located just east of Phoenix on U.S. Highway 60, past the Gold Canyon Golf Resort.