Take in two days of medieval merriment and mayhem at the Home of Champions rodeo grounds in Red Lodge during the annual Montana Renaissance Festival June 3-4. Step back in time to 16th century England, visit with Queen Abbey and King Jayme, and see knights and warriors battling across the grounds.
Organizer Ken Haak (aka lowly shepherd Kenneth the Humble) launched the festival in 2012 at ZooMontana in Billings after performing as an ogre at Renaissance faires in Texas and New York.
The festival – rated one of the top five tourist attractions in Montana – outgrew the zoo about the time COVID struck. When an invitation arrived from the Red Lodge Chamber and Home of Champions Rodeo to relocate in 2022, organizers jumped on the opportunity. Despite losing the unique ambiance of the zoo, the festival gained “the luxury of one of the finest arenas in the state, with a seating capacity of 6,000, nearly triple the parking and a lot more camping space for our vendors and performers.”
Enjoy the Royal Joust, courtesy of the The Order of Epona, as well as fighting demonstrations and displays and equestrian feats of daring performed by members of the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA). Relax at one of four stages as local bards, minstrels, dancers, wizards and jesters perform, and try delicacies from food and drink vendors, including the always tasty turkey leg and a flagon of ale or a chalice of the King’s Mead.
More than 75 period artists and craftsmen sell their wares and demonstrate age-old crafts, including Seven Hammers Forge, Her Lady’s Handspinners, the Potters Guild, Art & Alchemy Glass Blowing and singing bowls by Sassy Sage Creations.
Among the many performers at this year’s festival are AlternaCirque with amazing feats of aerial acrobats, the Montana Morris Dancers, Timeless Magic, Lord Albion, Zoupa de Zonia, Frostylocks and Splinter, Earthshine and Gareth the Bard. Minstrels, belly dancers, unicorns, a fairy queen, ventriloquist and magicians add to the ambiance, and thespians from NOVA in Billings perform excerpts from “A Misummer Night’s Dream.”
The little ones are bound to enjoy the children’s area with its bounce castle and bounce dragon, the Pixie Coronation featuring the Queen of Fairies, and the Children’s Knighting Ceremony, presided over by the His Majesty.
Grounds are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $10-$18 per day to $15-$30 for two, with two-day passes and parking options available. Visit montanarenfest.com.