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June is here and that means a handful of things for me.  It is the birth month of both my son and wife, the temperature in Kentucky skyrockets, and the Highlands Renaissance Fair returns!  We made our first appearance last year and absolutely loved the travel back in time.  If you you missed our coverage of last year’s festival you can check it out here.

We got our first impressions out of the way last season, but what did I set out to accomplish this year?  That was the question I had to answer for myself once I knew we were returning for a second time.  Sure I could talk about all of the same things every year, but what fun is that?  Of course there will be the staples of a renaissance festival. you will see the joust, you will experience great food, and you will be treated as either a Lord or Lady from the time period every time you interact with the vendors and staff.  All of this was a given for me (which is awesome), but I wanted to uncover some of the more hidden treasures of the experience.

What did I find?  Come with me on the journey and find out.

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I spoke in our last article about the travel through the forest before entering the festival.  This is still one of the most memorable aspects of the show and I absolutely love making this short travel before approaching the gate.  As a matter of fact you shouldn’t be too surprised if you see someone hanging out and admiring the nature in this area during the festival, because there is a good chance that it’s me.

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I’m pretty sure this area existed prior to this year, but for some reason this was my first visit.  The sign is a little difficult to read in this picture, but this peaceful getaway is titled “The Memorial Gardens” and serves to honor those throughout history that has fought for  the freedom of their nation.  Whether we are talking about the legendary William Wallace, King Robert the Bruce, or our very own WWI and WWII veterans.  I thoroughly enjoyed the stop here and while it is in plain view, I feel that so many attendees pass right by without taking a few moments to reflect on it’s dedication.  I do understand that once you emerge from the forest you are blown away by the opening gate (which is show below), but stopping to enjoy this area was an enlightening moment.  How much of the festival do people actually take in during their visit.

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I am not speaking as a judgement, because I am guilty of the exact same thing.  I break out the show schedule and look at the things that I want to see and what time they will be at each stage.  I found though that while doing this you get slightly pulled out of the experience and forget to just hang back and enjoy what surprises can be in store.

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The “Main Street” of the festival is always an interesting place to meet and interact with a wide variety of people and get invited to many of the festivals events.  It wasn’t too long during our visit that we were invited to a show by an “Escapologist” and that we should attend at either noon or 12 pm, whichever we preferred.  After making a brief round trip of the grounds and stopping by the inn to grab a drink, we made our way to the stage that was tucked away perfectly off the beaten path.

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Sir Mark’s show was perfect and filled with humor as he constantly critiqued the assistants from the crowd and did an excellent job holding everyone’s attention.  Having a genuine love of magic and escape tricks as a child I grew up performing a lot of these escapes or variations of, but the finale was really impressive and I had a genuine fear that we would be witnessing a man jab a steel spike through his hand.  I am happy to say however, that the final act was a great success and a fitting end to a fantastic performance.

Our next stop was at the Twisted Thistle where we enjoyed a relaxing mug of ale and became introduced to the talents of Axel the Sot.  I was really thrilled with this act and his reference to Dr. Demento (which I grew up listening to).  I wasn’t too sure about this show at first, but was quickly won over with his introductory song on why beer is better than women.  Believe it or not, this is actually a whole lot funnier than it sounds.

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After enjoying these shows we took a break and wandered the grounds which led to a few surprises.  One of which I actually noticed last year, but didn’t include in our previous article.  Behold… Viking Darth Vader!

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This one image can almost sum up the entire mood of the festival.  The Highlands Renaissance Festival is truly a celebration of both history and pop culture that is set in a medieval time period bringing with it a perfect mixture of family entertainment and humor.  As much as I try to convey the mood and atmosphere of the festival, I always feel like I am selling it short as everyone is always there to have a great time and to just enjoy the experience.  To me at least there is always a sense of wonder as I constantly discover new things every time I attend.  (Hence the direction of this article)

For example, how often do you come across someone wearing something like this?

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You simply don’t…  Another part I absolutely love is the constant growth of the festival.  While it’s not substantial every year, if my memory serves me correctly it sure seems like there are small developments every year and I am noticing the vendor area continue to expand further into the surrounding wooded areas.  I really love this aspect and enjoy heading down a path for instance and encountering a gypsy camp, or a stage that I didn’t know was there.  Granted you can always pay closer attention to the map and find all the event listings this way, but something about this method of discovery really ropes me in.  When I see a path like this…

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I can’t wait to go exploring and see what I can find.  At one point in the afternoon we were in between shows and standing in front of Mikaela’s Inn when Slappy from the Nuttin’ But Mud show stopped right in front of us with a bucket.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he was doing, before he struck a pose and just stood there.  I then realized that he was striking a pose and holding it until he received a tip which would prompt him to change positions.

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It’s things like this that I love and look forward to.  I could go on and on about all of the experiences and surprises, but you really should just see it for yourself.  Another great thing is that every weekend is themed, so if you think you have seen everything one weekend you can simply come back the next for a slightly different experience.  Once again I highly recommend the Highland Renaissance Festival.  It is truly a blast and great for all ages.  There is still plenty of time this season to enjoy the event, so make sure you grab your tickets and enjoy the renaissance.

Below is a gallery showcasing a few other sights and events from the festival.  For more information and to get your tickets visit the Official Site.  Be sure to hurry though, the final day of the festival is July 10th, 2016

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