Medieval-era re-enactment delights Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival fans
Vendors hawked period wares as food on sticks – and other delights – floated past dueling, singing and a jousting tournament on Sunday at the annual Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in South Huntingdon.
Blairsville’s Scott Walton was among dozens of actors and performers draped in medieval attire for the festival, which runs until the end of September on a 22-acre site including outbuildings designed to replicate 16th-century England century.
Playing out a festival script, Walton, as King Henry VIII, explained how he would spend the next month distracting his heir from fascination with life as a buccaneer.
“Our yearly progression stopped here for a festival they have with the peasants, but I have a problem with the pirates,” he said as he walked through his realm. “My son, Fitzroy, wants to be a pirate, not a knight.”
Kristy Ekiss has been the festival’s operations director for the past 15 years and said interest in medieval times has grown over the past decade.
“It’s an idea that started in the 1970s, and now these festivals are in every state in the country. Most are independently owned,” Ekiss said.
Actors and performers aren’t the only ones in costume. Visitors also dress according to the theme.
Sadie Adams, 24, of Finleyville, and her friend Avea Karmann, of the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, came out dressed in period clothing.
“It’s one of the few times, other than Halloween, that we get to dress up,” said Adams, who described her Sleeping Beauty costume “during the first half of the movie.”
Josh Brubaker, from Bellevue, was in full dress attire dressed as a wizard of the forest.
“It’s the right time and the right place. I can’t imagine coming here and not getting dressed,” Brubaker said.
Her hand-sewn outfit started out as a green costume that evolved over the years to include capes and a flower-covered cane. During the week, Brubaker runs a beer shop. In late summer and early fall weekends, it’s a wizard.
“I try to get out here once a weekend while it’s running,” Brubaker said.
Walton has performed at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival since its debut over a decade ago and as King for the past five years.
He became a performer after initially attending the festival as a patron, he said.
When he’s not acting as a king, Walton, who grew up in Greensburg, performs in community theater and has had guest roles in films shot in the Pittsburgh area.
He said his involvement has grown over the years and he now helps craft the plot of the king that serves as the story of each year’s festival.
“The best thing ever is to see the kids light up when they realize they’re going to be knights,” Walton said.
Montrealer Etienne McGinley is making his first appearance at the festival this year. McGinley’s acrobatic routine includes handstand tricks, knife juggling and other dexterity shows he said he learned while working as a circus clown and performing on cruise ships.
McGinley worked at other Renaissance festivals, including one hosted by the same owners in Colorado, and said he looked forward to the crowds in western Pennsylvania.
“Everyone is so laid back here,” McGinley said.
Through the village, Mike Hauser, his wife, Christine, and their 11-year-old son, Devon, from Indiana, dressed as medieval-era peasants and marveling at mounted knights joust before the king and queen.
“I’ve always been in this period,” Mike Hauser said.
His wife added: “Sometimes you feel like you were born at the wrong time.”