It is an exciting adventure not for the faint of heart; the Great Plains Renaissance & Scottish Festival pays tribute to the olden days when kings commanded large armies to protect castles from enemies, and knights in shining armor worked to woo fair maidens. You can be a part of a time when danger was met with bravery and chivalry was still alive right here in Wichita.
Biannually at Sedgwick County Park, thousands gather to catapult back in time to the Middle Ages in a celebration of history through reenactments, costume play, metalwork and historically-accurate games and customs. Equipped with a full royal court (from king and queen to retainers, nobles and knights), attendees are welcomed into a world of creativity and creatures.
“I think that is important to have a place like the renaissance festival where you can escape to a different time and place for awhile and come away enriched with the experience,” Director Richard Cathey said.
Behind castle walls, guests can enjoy modern and traditional foods including the coveted turkey leg, purchase handmade goods from the market and witness the historic Scottish Highland Games played in real time.
“All of our athletes wear the traditional Scottish kilt in the competition to give the games an authentic flair,” Cathey said. “Of course, nothing gives authenticity to the games like the sound of the bagpipes playing as the competitors do battle on the athletic field.”
The Highland games are held in the spring and summer in Scotland and several other countries as a way to celebrate Scottish and Celtic heritage. In Wichita, the most popular event is the caber toss, a game where competitors toss a huge tapered pole to see who can throw it the farthest.
The 18th annual Great Plains Renaissance Faire will see the return of the Battle of Bannockburn.
“The Battle of Bannockburn was the turning point in Scottish history where King Robert the Bruce led his outnumbered forces to victory, and helped establish Scotland as a kingdom of its own,” Cathey said. “We will have actors and re-enactors playing the part and hope to be able to build this into one of the largest events of its kind in the USA.”
Do not be alarmed at the sound of clashing metal, for it is only men on horseback in a jousting competition. Jousting is a martial game between mounted knights holding long sticks with blunt tips, running full-speed at each other trying to knock their opponent off their horse. It is also another popular event recreated for spectators in Wichita at the Great Plains Ren Faire. Medieval combat is a long-standing tradition at many renaissance festivals, as it was the backbone of entertainment in the Middle Ages.
One of the more rare events bringing medieval times to life is the Royal Gauntlet Birds of Prey. Master Falconer Bob Aanonsen steals the show by introducing crowds to a sport many would not have the chance to see.
“He brings the magic of falconry to our renaissance festival, as well as a dozen to two dozen different kinds of hunting birds with him,” Cathey said. “Since this was a sport reserved for the nobility in days of yore, we count ourselves fortunate indeed.”
Aanonsen brings hawks, falcons and even a giant Eurasian eagle owl.
The festival is loaded with many events and features including bagpipes, belly dances, fire-breathers, jugglers, singing pirates, fairies, acrobats, daredevils, magicians, storytellers, swordsmen and craftsmen, many of whom demonstrate how they create their goods and how you can buy them. There is even an expert in medieval heraldry on hand and happy to share her wealth of knowledge with festivalgoers.
The Great Plains Renaissance & Scottish Festival is a fun, education experience perfect for the whole family. Visitors can even grab free kids passes by purchasing their adult tickets online, so the kids can enjoy all the festivities and excitement the faire has to offer.
For more details on the 2017 Great Plains Renaissance & Scottish Festival, click here.