LARKSPURSHIRE, Colo. – Just a three-hour drive south, you can step back in time 500 years to the village of Larkspurshire and the Colorado Renaissance Festival.
Renaissance festivals are offered all around the country at various times of the year. But they all grew out of the Pleasure Faires of the early 1960s in California, said Jim Paradise Jr., vice-president and director of marketing for the Colorado Renaissance Festival.
The festivals grew both in size and popularity, eventually expanding into Minnesota, with Paradise’s father involved in those early ventures. The expansion continued around the country, with more festivals springing up from coast to coast, until, in 1976 CRF was born.
Renaissance festivals did experience a few dark years, with a more bawdy, risqué atmosphere around both the entertainment and the people who attended. A few years ago, though, the organizers of festivals and faires around the country realized they were alienating a vast audience for their particular type of entertainment and significant changes were made.
“We’ve evolved, not only in expansion of our property, but in the type of patron we attract,” Paradise said. “We’ve become much more family-oriented than what we used to be.
“Now, we’re offering a much more family-oriented adventure for all, is the best way to put it,” he said. “There’s so much to do and see, it gives a really unique experience for everyone.”
One thing, which sets CRF apart, is the crew works to bring in new entertainment and vendors each year, Paradise said. One such attraction at the 41st Colorado Renaissance Festival is The Living Well.
Katelyn Hansen of Westminster, Colo., portrays the centerpiece of The Living Well. Wearing a special costume fitted with water lines, Hansen executes delicate movements and poses in time with a pre-recorded sound track, all to the accompaniment of the gentle sprays of water coming from her fingertips and the top of her head.
The Living Well concept grew from a larger show developed almost two decades ago in Orlando, Fla., by Wes Holden, called The Living Garden. The shows featured various characters in the garden, from plants to trees to rock formations, all coming to life before the audience’s eyes.
“It’s all choreographed, but then Katelyn makes it her own,” Holden said. “That allows her to interact.
“It’s easy to get caught up in moments with the kids,” he said. “We want them to be able to enjoy those moments.”
And it’s that interaction between players and audience that makes the Renaissance Festival experience unique, Paradise said. Around virtually every corner, there’s a musical act, a food vendor or a street performer, all ready to bring the festival experience to life.
“Sitting outside, having a refreshment of your choice and listening to live music is a really great afternoon,” he said. “Expect the unexpected – there’s just so much for everyone to enjoy.
“I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true,” Paradise said. “You can come out in jeans and a t-shirt or in full Renaissance garb. Just come out and enjoy yourself and get away from the everyday monotony.”