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Elizabethan Extravaganza

The region’s first Renaissance Festival debuts this weekend at Indian Ladder Farms

by Ann Morrow on June 12, 2014


Photo by Daniel P. Bader

At the foot of the misty mountains, west of the King’s highway past the blueberry bush, a magical gathering is expected, transforming a Voorheesville farmstead into a medieval village populated by swashbucklers, thespians, minstrels, craftsmen, grog peddlers, fire jugglers, and chivalrous knights and their noble steeds. And a snake charmer. And a fairy godmother.

For real.

OK, so the Helderbergs aren’t all that misty, but everything else is going to come true when the region’s first-ever Renaissance faire unfurls at Indian Ladder Farms on June 14 (Saturday) and June 15 (Sunday). The Capital District Renaissance Festival is being brought to the area by three damsels with extensive Ren faire experience and goodly enthusiasm for the rich bounty of entertainment they’re presenting, from open-air Shakespeare to jousting tournaments by armored knights on horseback.

Combining history and fantasy, the seedling event began when Kendall Hudson, performance director for the renowned Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park in New York City, met Gia Pace, a media director for some of the biggest Ren faires in the country (including the New York Renaissance Faire in Orange County) and they decided to start their own festival. But where?

Hudson, an events manager based in Syracuse, is a native of Schenectady, and thus a locale was chosen. “I love the Capital Region. And it didn’t have a Ren faire,” she says.

Schenectady’s Classic Theater Guild led the way from there. Not only did Hudson’s hometown theater have Shakespeare experience, they also performed an annual outdoor summer festival, at Indian Ladder Farms. And not only does Indian Ladder have experience with holding festivals and hosting large crowds, but it’s also dramatically scenic with a variety of terrain against the backdrop of the Helderberg Escarpment.

“People will be transported,” says Hudson. “Because of the natural beauty of the setting, it will feel like stepping back in time.” The festival will occur in different areas of the property; the jousting arena, says Hudson, is in a natural amphitheater by the fruit orchards. Royal tournaments are a main attraction and will be held twice a day.

“This is a great time for a new Renaissance faire because there is so much pop culture with this era now,” says Hudson. “Vikings, pirates, Game of Thrones, if you have an interest in these things, you’ll want to come. Seeing a joust live is not like seeing it on TV,” she promises. And even if you don’t have an interest in Westeros (or Bosworth Field), you’ll want to come anyway, “Because it’s an opportunity to see so many things you won’t see anywhere else,” she says. “People get to step out of their own lives for a bit.”

Photo by Lars Lunde

Dressing the part—in garb, costume, or make-believe—is part of the experience, as is interacting with the festival’s many strolling performers and improv characters such as the village “peasants.”

The festival will have four stages. Among the offerings is A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Classic Theater Guild; The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told, an award-winning Off Broadway musical comedy; and sword-and-sauciness skits by Vixens En Garde, a bodacious female weaponry troupe featuring “rapier wit.”

There will also be several musical acts, including a raucous Irish pub band and a medieval-music duo playing historical and world instruments, along with traditional and tribal dancers, magicians, and stilt-walkers.

“We have contacts with all the best performers, and we wanted them all and more,” Hudson enthuses.

The talent comes from a three-state radius—the joust company is from Pennsylvania—but mostly from downstate New York. In honor of World Juggling Day, Saturday will feature a juggling competition, and on Sunday there will be specials for Father’s Day. Horse-and-carriage rides around the grounds are free.

Pace’s sister, Antoinetta McGoey, is the maven of the marketplace, where a dozen or so artisans will sell and demonstrate their handicrafts, from jewelry to pottery.

“It’s so exciting,” says Hudson of the festival’s opening. “Instead of using our skills for other people, we’re able to say, ‘This is our idea.’ It’s our baby from conception to debut.”

Seems these ladies of the faire were well met indeed.

The Capital District Renaissance Festival will be held on Saturday (June 14) and Sunday (June 15) from 11 AM to 6 PM at Indian Ladder Farms, 342 Altamont Road, Altamont. Tickets are $12 adults, $5 kids.


Update: The reference to a Ren Faire in Westchester County has been corrected to note it is actually in Orange County.

Update 2: New Photos were added to the story.