Texas, the second largest state in the US, may be is recognized as the land of; blue skies, cowboy hats and southern hospitality. While that may be true, the state of Texas holds so much more. Combining modern innovative skylines with the colonial history of its origins, Texas is diverse in culture and landscape and not as stereotypical as one might be led to believe.
The south-eastern Grimes County is home to a small town called Todd Mission, which in 1974, became the permanent home to a small festival created by a man called George Coulman. Three stages and a handful of vendors selling their wares on blankets under the shade of trees were brought together on 15 acres of a traditional strip mining site to entertain any patrons who wanted to visit the past and enter the world of history. This, was the first Texas Renaissance festival.
Today, 50 miles north-west of Houston, on the same traditional mining site it began on, 8 themed villages with over 400 hired actors on over 55 acres of Texan land, bring George Coulman’s Renaissance festival to life. Starting this weekend on 11 October, the next 8 autumn weekends will be filled with diverse and eclectic re-enactments of the 16th century and beyond. This festival now draws over half a million attendees to this living, breathing museum of history, where visitor participation is both encouraged and required.
Costumes are more than welcome, with garments to rent available outside the festival gates. Each weekend has a different renaissance theme and with the Renaissance festival 2014 being the 40th anniversary, spirits are high and celebration is in the air. Jousting, archery, juggling, games, shopping, eating and productions are without an end, with the king’s feast being a particular highlight. A two hour long procession of wine, cheese and dessert, with all one may drink; the wine and beer being served from seemingly bottomless chalices.
The 55 acres of this annual celebration of history and culture, has been architecturally designed to match the history books. Steeple roofs, turrets, gardens and native trees have been planted and expanded to match the era which they are recreating. Shops of; pottery, sculpted metal, wood carving and jewellery can be browsed and bought alongside vendors of traditional Henry VIII style turkey legs and Elizabethan food may be experienced.
Each themed weekend brings with it a different sense of energy and trajectory. The famous 1001 dreams weekend is that of ancient fantasy, inspiring lavish costumes of wizards, elves and fairies with competitions and focus on all things founded in folklore and magical legend. All hallows eve beckons a weekend in celebration of the pagan holiday, with medieval decorations and jack o’lantern carving competitions.
Dedication to the history books continues with the Highland fling and Celtic Christmas, a glimpse into Scottish culture with bagpipe music and traditional dress, and a look toward the upcoming Christmas season with Celtic Christmas surrounded by seasonal games and traditional music. With this year heralding the 40th anniversary, King Midas’ Masquerade Ball has been created to honour this landmark, an all-out party celebrated in the new festival garden.
The Texas Renaissance festival was designed to allow any individual to enter into an alternative world and experience what life was like for those from another time. It aims to be a celebration of human history, being true to traditions from previous ancient generations. Full of fun and energy, this festival realises the importance of honouring history and combines it with the enjoyment and merriment found in a collective gathering inclusive of everyone.
What other aspects of our collective history might be a source of celebration and remembrance?