Kiwanis Medieval Faire at Lakes Park

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    Medieval Days & Knights

    Knights, horses, acrobats, minstrels, jousting and the royal court take you back to all things 12th century, and all you have to do is journey to Lakes Regional Park in South Fort Myers to experience this and more at the annual Medieval Faire, a charity event presented by Riverdale Kiwanis.

    “We started this 24 years ago as a club fundraiser,” explains Terry Short of Riverdale Kiwanis. “Even then Medieval Faires were popular, so it seemed like a natural forum to raise money for area kids. Lakes Park hosted us the entire time, except for three years after Hurricane Charley when it was really torn up, but we came back. Originally the park had a lot of trees, and all the muck made for a great medieval faire atmosphere.”

    The entertainment Riverdale Kiwanis provides is professional and impressive, with national acts that go all over the nation to only the biggest and best Faires. “This is not a traveling show or carney,” Terry emphasizes, “making ours a one-of-a-kind Medieval Faire – you will not experience another like it anywhere else in the United States or on Earth. We hire all entertainers and vendors independently by evaluating every single show, act, performer and merchant.”

    While there is food and fun galore, Terry admits up-front it is “the jousting that is the main reason most people attend, and we have the best anywhere with the New Riders of the Golden Age. They are extremely well-known and compete in intense jousting – this is not someone sitting atop an old horse or walking real fast at one-another wearing aluminum-foil armor; this is the real thing, with real armor, using real lances, on real fast young horses, so when they strike one-another, it HURTS! I was a jouster for about 35 years, but now I am old and frail so you will see me making my way around the Faire grounds on my medieval golf cart!”

    Empty Hats & Topsy Turvy

    Throughout the two-weekend event, roving entertainers and scheduled shows offer acrobats, magic and minstrel music. The jousting and live-action chess match take place at the central arena three times daily.

    The Medieval Faire features 21 acts on 7 stages, with more than 80 vendors. “We offer some great first-time entertainers this year, like ‘Empty Hats’ who are a terrific acoustic band that plays original Celtic music that spans the centuries. ‘Topsy Turvy’ is an all-female acrobat circus group who begin their national tour right here. We eagerly present Bubba Da Vinci, Leonardo’s younger dumber brother who didn’t quite make it! The Rat Man trains rats and invented rat punking, though that is not as bad as it sounds, with the winner receiving the coveted red rat that is highly sought-after at Medieval Fairs!”

    Over 80 vendors sell everything from swords to maces, clothing to jams; “pretty much anything you can name from the 12th century someone here will make, demonstrate, and sell,” Terry says chuckling. “This includes period food and drink, with adults enjoying beer, mulled wine and mead. People love their mead that is good cold but even better hot. We serve everything from turkey legs and sausage to shepherd’s pie to pulled pork to ‘rat on a stick,’ as in Medieval Times rat was a real delicacy!”

    While the Medieval Faire lasts just two weekends, planning starts each February, “with the serious work commencing in August,” Terry explains. “We send out performing contracts by mid-August and those for vendors during early November. We lay out everything at Lakes Park beginning the Monday prior, to have everything in place by the first Saturday, as it takes three days alone to prepare the jousting fields. I basically live at Lakes Park for 13 straight days, as does most of the staff, vendors and entertainers, as we have a lot of items that require around-the-clock security.”

    Benefiting Our Kids

    Terry offers that “Riverdale Kiwanis allocates six scholarships annually, with all Faire profits staying right here in Lee County to benefit our kids; we do not ship money off to other places but keep everything in our area for our area. No one from Riverdale Kiwanis makes a penny off the Medieval Faire and many of our entertainers and vendors provide contributions.”

    Sadly, the 2016 event was more a Swamp Fest than Medieval Faire, as our region’s record 14 inches of rainfall wreaked havoc on the normally rain-or-shine event. “Lakes Park was literally under water,” recalls Terry with a sigh. “We canceled the entire opening weekend, and were only open for 6 hours out of all four days. The weather forecast so far for this year looks nice, but this is Florida so who knows.”

    He says that “last year we were still able to fund our annual scholarships but not much else. In almost a quarter century, it was our one and only bad event, but it happens and you keep going because Lee County kids need help. Just because you have a lousy weather year does not mean these children suddenly no longer need help anymore so we keep working – they do not have that luxury or choice, so neither do we.”

    The annual Medieval Faire by the Riverdale Kiwanis is Saturdays and Sundays, January 7 & 8 and 14 & 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with free parking. Lakes Regional Park is at 7330 Gladiolus Drive in South Fort Myers, with the entrance between US41 and Summerlin Road. NO PETS PLEASE! Admission is $15 for ages 12 & up, $5 children 5 to 11, and kids 5 & under free, with group rates available. For information contact 239-369-6881 or see www.medievalfaire.com; for details on Lakes Park or any other Lee County recreational site call 239-533-7275 or see leeparks@leegov.com.

    Attend The Kiwanis Medieval Faire at Lakes Park – perfect for Milords’ and Miladies’ and the entire family!

     

    Gary Mooney