In this installment of our “Nashville Newcomer” series, I found it fitting to experience the annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival, a celebrated tradition in the state for more than 30 years, that just finished its month-long run in Arrington, drawing in hundreds upon hundreds of visitors. Not only was this my first experience at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, it was also my first time visiting a Renaissance festival altogether.
It was the perfect day to attend the festival, as the sun was shining brightly amid a crystal blue sky. One of the first characteristics I noticed is that it’s tucked away in a scenic forest out along the countryside of Arrington, adding dynamic element to the experience. The festival as a whole was bustling with excitement, as several hundred guests and vendors packed in with their medieval-themed goods. One of the key elements of a Renaissance festival is the costumes, and I certainly saw a wide array of them. From woodland fairies to pirates and every character in between, guests truly participated in the spirit of the event. It was interesting to see the variety of costumes and how much people embody this theme.
And there was no shortage food or entertainment. When attending any Renaissance festival, indulging in a turkey leg is a key part of the event. I excitedly tried my first turkey leg and while the thought of eating one all on my own was too daunting, my roommate was kind enough to share a bite of hers. While I was uncertain of how well my taste buds would adapt to the gamey meat, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor that was reminiscent of decadent bacon.
A particular standout was that of the music. Many guests grabbed a front row seat as one man played authentic Celtic music on the bagpipes. A group of participants dressed as woodland fairies playfully danced as another gentleman performed a whimsical song on the pennywhistle, entertaining passersby. Other exciting sights included the Hurlinator (which I abstained from riding), face painting, sword fighting, archery, a pirate comedy show, and much more. We also managed to squeeze in alongside the large crowd that formed to watch as characters prepared to engage in the traditional jousting battle. Even from across the festival, we could hear the crowd cheering as men dressed in armor on top of horses tried to throw each other from their steeds – just as they did in medieval times.
And clearly this is a beloved event in Tennessee, as people lined up for miles (literally) just to get in and partake in the festivities. Unfortunately, we did not make it for a tour of the famed Castle Gwynn, but it did not impact the experience, as we felt as though we got a true taste of medieval culture. Overall, the Tennessee Renaissance Festival served as a solid introduction to the Renaissance world with its good food, authentic activities and enthusiastic festival goers that embody the spirit of the Renaissance era.