Medieval Oasis Along Fowler Avenue

Mar 13, 2017

The medieval era often comes alive through books or movies, but once a year, the time of the renaissance becomes tangible in Tampa.

The site of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival is along the busy motorway of Fowler Ave. However, once you past the tented entrance, you're taken back to a time of antiquity. The air fills with dust and "Greensleeves" played on a lyre. 

While there are paid performers at the 39th annual festival doing jousting, juggling and magic of the era, the people attending are just as colorful. They're dressed as pirates and peasants of days of yore. 

The jousting is about to begin.
Credit Quincy Walters / WUSF News

There are fighters, like the knight in shining 100-pound armor sweating under a tree. 

"It'll protect you against anything except for mace blows or axe blows and stabbing - like a spear or a l halberd," he said pointing to his armor. 

When he's not a knight, he's Shawn Farmer - a truck driver. 

There are even fairies flying around. They have pink skin and foliage for clothes. 

"We're the Fittleworth fairies," Speck - the pixie dust fairy, said. Her companion, Pigment - the flower fairy - concurs. 

"I make pixie dust," Speck said. 

"I paint the flowers so that they're pretty," Pigment said. 

They flew off, declining to disclose their real-life personas. Maybe they were real fairies after all. 

Shawn Farmer gives a knight's salute in his shining 100-pound armor. When he's not a knight, he's a truck driver.
Credit Quincy Walters / WUSF News

Not everyone is in costume - people like Danielle Mitchell, who's sitting on a bale of hay, eating a gigantic turkey leg. 

She hasn't been to the festival in years. 

"I used to dress up, but it was too hot for that," Mitchell said with a laugh. "I feel bad for all these [people] - you see them fanning themselves and buying parasols. They're buying $60 parasols because of the heat outside." 

She said the crowd this year is "way bigger" than it was about five years ago. 

Kim Heidger, the marketing manager for the festival, said the first two weekends of this year's fest had the highest number of visitors in 13 years. 

The medieval oasis lasts until April 2.