Back to the 16th cen­tury

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - Ar­ti­cle and pho­tos by Amy Davis

Nes­tled in the woods of Crownsville, the Mary­land Re­nais­sance Fes­ti­val, now in its 40th sea­son, at­tracts over 300,000 vis­i­tors each year. Par­tic­i­pants, of­ten in pe­riod cos­tume, re­pair to Revel Grove for theater, mu­sic, joust­ing, street per­form­ers, crafts, grog, roast turkey legs and other treats. Most of all they come to be trans­ported back in time. Many re­turn, year af­ter year.

Jules Smith, the fes­ti­val’s long­time op­er­a­tor, re­flects that such fes­ti­vals were once con­sid­ered coun­ter­cul­ture. It was “a com­mu­nal op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to get to­gether and cel­e­brate the live arts. That’s changed in this coun­try, and we’ve be­come kind of the es­tab­lish­ment now. But it’s still a great op­por­tu­nity to get out and have an un­struc­tured, safe ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple come here to be some­body they aren’t in their reg­u­lar life.”

Per­form­ers love the in­ter­ac­tion with the au­di­ences. Mark Jaster, a mime whose act, “A Fool Named O and LaLa” has been run­ning for 31 sea­sons, says the spec­ta­tors are di­rect and hon­est. “We get schol­ars, bik­ers and tod­dlers in one au­di­ence.” Ni­cole Skelly, who per­forms with Sa­man­tha McDon­ald as The Steele Sis­ters, puts it sim­ply: “I like to make peo­ple laugh. That’s my fa­vorite kind of per­form­ing.” Rylee Low­ery, 6, of Mace­do­nia, Ohio, ap­pears pen­sive as she watches a game of skit­tles.

The Steele Sis­ters — Ni­cole Skelly, left, and Sa­man­tha McDon­ald — are in their fourth sea­son per­form­ing at the Mary­land Re­nais­sance Fes­ti­val in Crownsville in Anne Arun­del County.

The Nye brothers of Alexan­dria, Va. — from left, Jay­den, 7; Eli, 3; and Noah, 7 — came to the fes­ti­val dressed as young swords­men. Many at­ten­dees come in pe­riod cos­tume.

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