If there’s one man in Bucks County who deserves endless “cool dad” points, it’s Ken Hone. Twenty years ago, Hone brought his young son’s fascination with medieval times to life, organizing the area’s first Renaissance faire in the Wrightstown Elementary School gym.
The event, which drew 500 guests, was an unprecedented success, though Hone never intended to create something so popular. His mission was to simply put a smile on his 4-year-old’s face. But two decades later, the faire has morphed into a weekend-long affair, welcoming nearly 10,000 attendees over the span of two days.
On Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15, the 20th annual Village Renaissance Faire is taking place at the Middletown Grange Fairgrounds, located at 557 Penns Park Road, Newtown. Once again, guests can travel back to the 14th century and immerse themselves in the era of knights, jousting tournaments and, of course, turkey legs. All proceeds benefit the Village Library of Wrightstown, 727 Penns Park Road, Newtown.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hone said of the faire’s milestone anniversary. “Essentially, if someone told me 20 years ago that I’d still be running this faire, which initially was just a three-hour event on one Saturday afternoon, I would’ve told them they were crazy, and that I was even crazier. But I guess both bore out to be true.”
Faire-goers can expect a number of returning favorite acts, including the flying birds of prey, jousting knights and dangling aerialists. Across 10 stages, performances and activities cover a wide range of interests – dancers, musicians and madrigals for the arts lover; danger shows featuring a working trebuchet, living chess, archery matches and fire breathers; and actors bringing literature to life.
Children can enjoy crafts, a kid’s kingdom and lighthearted shows, while adults browse clothing, jewelry, pottery and gifts. All ages can participate in medieval games, weapon throwing, the Fight-a-Knight booth, pony and carriage rides and a royal petting zoo, in addition to viewing blacksmithing, woodworking and glassworking demonstrations in the living history square.
While 21st-century snacks are on hand, those looking to get the full experience can munch on a turkey leg and other time-specific options.
As always, guests who forget to plan ahead for their wardrobe can borrow Renaissance costumes for the day. All they have to do is leave an item of value, which they get back when the clothes are returned.
“That’s one of the things that we love about our faire, is that we try to make it affordable,” Hone said, adding that other faires often charge for garb rentals. “We want everybody to be able to come and enjoy.”
New this year, the faire will showcase how the Renaissance period came to fruition in various cultures, such as Irish (led by Kilt Fest), English and Polish. Hone compared this feature to the “It’s A Small World” ride at Walt Disney World. He said it shows how different groups went through an evolution of “being enlightened, expanding the arts and expanding what we believe is the civilized and cultured society.”
Also fresh for 2019 is a partnership with the New Jersey Renaissance Faire, which is providing some of its villagers, and the appearance of students from Unscripted Productions – an up-and-coming improvisation school based in Newtown.
“It’s nice to see other organizations. These are for-profit events, but they see the value of our event,” Hone said. “We have an enhanced environment where we’re going to have actors improvising within the area, acting within character, and yet guiding people through the vast aspects of the Celtic world.”
For Hone, witnessing the constant growth of the Village Renaissance Faire is what keeps him going year after year.
“Somebody, some organization, some person reaches out to me and says, ‘How can I become part of it?’ And I think that’s really a solution to how to make America a better place,” Hone said. “If everybody goes out there and finds a way to do good somewhere, we’re all going to be in a much better place.”
According to Hone, every attendee, volunteer and performer at the faire is doing good. Since its inception, the Village Renaissance Faire has raised more than $250,000 for the Village Library of Wrightstown.
“Without that, the library would be in debt easily at least $20,000 a year. This is a fundamental part of the library. They’re very frugal, but even with that, they absolutely need this as a funding source,” Hone said. “And it’s been a great funding source because it allows the library to offer a great, affordable program that’s reachable by all and, at the same time, gain revenue and meet its cost for year-round programming.”
If you go: The 20th annual Village Renaissance Faire takes place Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the Middletown Grange Fairgrounds, 557 Penns Park Road, Newtown. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free for children 5 and under. Tickets are available online at villagefaire.org and at the door.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org