Connecticut Renaissance Faire gears up for first season in Norwich
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Mon., Aug. 19, 2013
It may be an empty grassy field now, but come September, the overflow parking lot at Dodd Stadium will be transformed into a fantasy realm, thanks to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. This year marks the Faire’s move from its former digs at the Hebron Lions Club fairground to 14 Stott Ave., adjacent to Dodd Stadium.
“It’s a big open space surrounded by trees, so you feel like you’re out in nature. It’s a beautiful spot,” said Eric Tetreault, who, along with Brian Harvard and Paul Dinnuno, directs the CRF. He said the move to the new site was sparked by the fair’s growth in recent years, as well as by constraints against serving liquor at the Hebron site.
Unlike the former fairgrounds, which was interspersed with permanent barn structures, the new site will allow a more open layout, said Tetreault. CRF organizers plan to use 6 to 8 acres of the 10-acre site. For the first time, beer, wine and mead (a honey-based wine) will be served, along with a full range of other food, including the popular turkey legs, he said.
The fair will also boast a new theme this year. In a switch from the King Arthur theme of recent years, this year’s focus will be King Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty. A ceremony at the fair’s opening gate each day will mark that transition, Tetreault said. Set crews are busily constructing all-new sets, stages and main gate in keeping with the theme at the fair’s 12,000-square-foot Danielson workshop, he said.
Tetreault said that he attended his first RenFair with his friends years ago. He recalled hearing music as he stood in line for tickets, then stepping through the gate. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I just stepped back in time,’” he said. “We started interacting with the merchants. It was one of those magical times in your life. And that was it, we were hooked.”
The friends initiated the first CRF in 1999, at the Knights Inn in Putnam. They knew they were on to something even then: “The entire parking lot was full and they were parking down the street,” he said. Since then, the fair has moved first to Woodstock and then to Hebron prior to the move to Norwich. The organizers are still aiming to create that “stepping back in time” feeling, he said.
“There’s a wide range of people who come to these things. We have something for everybody,” Tetreault said. “We have stuff for the people who are history buffs, and we have fairies here and there – that’s for the kids.” The event will feature jousting, archery and falconry demonstrations, merchants selling everything from amulets to incense to armor, and entertainers ranging from magician Zoltan the Adequate to Cirque du Sewer, billed as the world’s only rat circus.
Themed weekends will include Pet Weekend with admission for leashed pets, Romance Weekend featuring wedding vow renewal ceremonies officiated by “the pope” and Time Travel Weekend, hosting time machines like the Tardis from “Dr. Who” and a DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” as well as steampunk and cosplay costumes.
While attending in costume does ratchet up the fun factor, Tetreault said that costumes are not obligatory. “The actors are still going to play with you. They want you to have fun and be immersed in the time period,” he said. Costume rentals will be available on the site.
He added that some of the “in your face” bawdy humor of previous fairs has been scaled back to keep the event more family-friendly. The humor this year, he said, will be “more Disney-toned, over the kids’ heads.”
The five-weekend event opens Sept. 21 and runs Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 20. More information about the CRF can be found at http://www.ctfaire.com/