The 36th Bay Area Renaissance Festival is going strong on the grounds of MOSI in north Tampa. The annual salute to everything medieval features 7 themed weekends, over 100 merchants selling period wears, food and drink, and dozens of rides and shows for the whole family (with some exceptions). If you go, dare to wear your Middle Ages attire and prepare to spend several hours taking it all in.
A jousting contestant prepares for a match.
The jousting match happens three times a day and is a must see. The athleticism of the warriors and their horses is amazing.
Along with the rides and stage shows there are plenty of other activities to share. Sarah and Cassie make a wax impression of their hands together. It takes 10 dips in molten wax (painless) to finish the hand sculpture.
Shows include many music acts and lots of stage shows with audience participation. In this photo mud flies in the Mud Show finale. The performance is a dirty perennial favorite. Don't sit in the front row unless you want to leave muddy (like the two girls in the tie dye shirts).
Where else can you practice your ax throwing? Here Billy Wells tries his hand at it. Knife throwing practice was also available.
George Hill and Merriann Wright duel it out at the Fencing Academy The object is to pop the balloon on your opponent's head. Hill eventually won.
Izzy (left) and Pearl (right) dance with Mark Arnold. Audience participation is a great part of the fun at Ren Fest.
All of the rides, like the Seahorse pictured here, are people- or animal-powered. But did they really have a wooden seahorse ride in the Dark Ages?
Six-year-old Colin Cooper tests his strength in the Dragon Slayer sledgehammer game. He rang the bell 3 times. If you try this, pack a lunch. The adult "dragon" is much harder to slay!
Elena, Roza, Delilah, and Esperanza form a band of Gypsies that stroll the fair grounds posing for pictures and entertaining fair fans
The Festival is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. rain or shine, Feb. 22-April 6, plus Friday, April 4. Admission at the gate: Adults $19.95; children 5-12 $11.95; 4 and under are free! Parking at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival is free! Discount tickets are available at participating Circle K and Walgreens stores, at MOSI or online at BayAreaRenFest.com.