“Faire” of fundraising

All proceeds from the 19th annual Village Renaissance Faire will benefit the Village Library of Wrightstown

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Travel through time: The 19th Village Renaissance Faire will take place Sept. 15 and 16 in Wrightstown and will feature attire, entertainment and cuisine from the 14th century. All proceeds benefit the Village Library of Wrightstown. Source: Ken Hone

At 4 years old, Ken Hone’s son wasn’t clamoring for the next big superhero toy. Instead, he was fascinated by the medieval world of knights, jousting tournaments and acts of valor to win the heart of the princess. In true “№1 dad” fashion, Hone wanted his child to experience the sights and sounds of that world beyond what a video game or Lego set could provide.

Nineteen years ago, in less than two months, he organized a Renaissance faire in the Wrightstown Elementary School gym, an event that welcomed an unprecedented 500 guests. After this massive turnout in such a small town, it was clear his son wasn’t the only local with a love of this historic era. What started as a creative gift continued to grow, quickly becoming a favorite annual tradition as it eventually expanded to the Middletown Grange Fairgrounds. On Sept. 15 and 16, more than 8,000 attendees are expected to converge for the 19th Village Renaissance Faire, with all proceeds benefiting the Village Library of Wrightstown.

Today, the faire still holds fast to its initial mission — to transport adventure-seekers of all ages to the 14th century through period attire, entertainment and cuisine. But, according to Hone, the event has also become a major philanthropic endeavor for the community.

“The library would be in debt without the faire,” he explained.

The fundraising goal for this year is at least $40,000, and every penny will be put toward ensuring the children’s programs at the library remain intact, as well as its weekend hours. Despite Village Library being quaint in size at its 727 Penns Park Road location in Newtown, it recently received a competitive arts grant award from the Five County Arts Fund, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and PECO Energy to be put toward the faire.

“The growth and appeal of this community event is incredible,” Hone said. “Especially when one realizes that we are able to offer our community 18 dance performances, 15 musical performances, and dozens of theatrical performances daily.”

Simply put, it’s hard to believe the Renaissance Faire, which earned recognition from Renaissance Magazine, is technically considered a “public library” event. Over the span of its two-day run, the faire is slated to offer hundreds of entertainment opportunities every half hour on 10 stages. Though none of the talent receives a paycheck, Hone proudly stated how most performers actively reach out to him, vying for a chance to display their talents.

“They decide to take me on as their cause,” he said. “If you want to be part of the faire, I’ll find a way.”

At noon and 4 p.m. each day, visitors can immerse themselves in the hands-on flying birds of prey show, during which they can hold hoops for the birds to soar through. Every hour, an aerialist will perform and offer free lessons to those who wish to defy gravity for a bit. Favorite yearly activities also include a fire-breathing show, armored horseback jousting, a petting zoo, carriage and pony rides, crafts, inflatables, archery, and dragon-sized chess, Battleship and Jenga.

To keep regular attendees on their toes, Hone promised a slew of new features, including the debut of Chaste Treasure. The trio of women, who gained recognition in 2013 at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire, will showcase their voices and stunning court dresses in a semi-improvisational, rhythmical performance.

A second highly-anticipated addition is the expansion of Pirates of Fortune’s Folly, which will provide all-day interactive theater, comic relief, demonstrations and challenges. During “Mutiny on the Folly!” guests of all ages will be asked to join the crew and get involved in the show. Afterward, they can meet the actors, who will be dressed in full pirate garb and exude Captain Jack Sparrow-esque swagger.

Of course, a Renaissance Faire benefiting a public library wouldn’t be complete without multiple storytimes. The pirates will host “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” during which they’ll share stories of ships, islands and haunted encampments. At the Living History pavilion, guests can stop by at intervals throughout the weekend, where a five-part play (which changes plotlines each year) will take place. Educational opportunities also include lessons in spinning, weaving and juggling, all taught by professionals of each respective craft.

When attendees need a break from battling knights and pirates, they can munch on a variety of food options. Popular carnival snacks, including popcorn and cotton candy, will be offered for the younger, pickier eaters, while those with a more open palate can purchase Renaissance-era treats such as turkey legs and soup in a bread bowl. Hone stressed that no alcohol is served or permitted into the faire.

“We want guests to be intoxicated by the shows, not alcohol,” he said.

While alcoholic beverages and outside weapons are prohibited, pets (either handheld or on a leash) and personal Renaissance costumes are welcome. Many attendees come elaborately dressed in ensembles that likely took days to create. In past years, Hone has witnessed everything from a Johnny Depp/Captain Jack Sparrow lookalike to a 12-foot walking tree. For those who don’t have the resources to craft a handmade costume, the faire will house a garb loaning station, where they can leave a token of value to borrow clothes and props for the day. ••

If you go…

The 19th Village Renaissance Faire will take place Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, at the Middletown Grange Fairgrounds, 576 Penns Park Road in Wrightstown. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students. Children under 5 are free with paying adult. There is free parking. For information, call 267–304–8060 or visit villagefaire.org. Advance tickets are available at villagefaire.ticketleap.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com