The 2008 season of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is off to a precarious, but roaring start after a weekend of sunshine and 85 degree days. The normally slow paced crowds of opening weekend gave way to a gluttony of families and participants dressed in their best bodices and chain mail, informed by the media attention of cast member deaths mere days before the festival started.

Joe Kudla, the famous portrayer of Thomas Snot in the Puke n Snot show died 5 days before the gates opened after 35 years in the role. A replacement Snot has been hired to fill the large shoes of Kudla.

Dave Albright of All Pun and Games, one of the companies that operates games such as Archery and Castle Catapult also lost an employee to heart failure the night before opening weekend. “I got some bad news around 2am last night so I apologize for the rocky start.”

Renaissance Festival is a celebration of the medieval era of the 16th Century. Participants and visitors are encouraged to dress as knights, peasants, jesters, wenches, or even costumes that don’t fit the era. In years past, wizards and witches mingled with Klingons and stormtroopers. This first weekend even saw a couple dressed in 18th Century Bavarian lederhousen.

The theme for the first weekend was A Silk Road: Discover the Riches and featured the Minnesota State Belly Dance Competition, Arabian Horse Shows, Samurai demonstrations, and Yoga lessons. Also, the 2nd annual Pet Fest offered the opportunity for pets an pet lovers to parade their animals and enter into a pet costume contests, and.

Nearly a dozen new vendors joined the hundreds of crafts and wares available at the festival this year. Leather, metalworkings, perfumes, candles, woodworking, pottery and jewelry all add spice to the food and entertainment.

The 2008 season also sees the expansion of the food menus to include more heart-healthy and vegetarian dishes as well as its old standards of turkey legs, bread bowl soups, and oversized pickles. The Feast of Fantasy, held at Bad Manor, is also on schedule and this year features steak au poive and sliced chicken breast with L’Orange sauce.

Returning this year are the many great acts the Renaissance Festival has been known for in the past as well as new ones. Highlights include the comedy stylings of the Tortuga Twins, the fire eating of Johnny Phoenix, and insult comedy troupe of Vilification Tennis.

Renaissance Festival is located in Shakopee and runs weekends and labor day from August 16th to September 28th and Friday, September 26th. Gates open at 9am and close at 7pm. Rain or shine and offers Free Parking. Tickets range from $19.95 for adults and $10.95 for children with a $2 senior discount.

Upcoming events include the World Highland Heavy Games Championship on Aug. 23rd and 24th, the Minnesota Longbow Competition and Home brewing Competition on Aug 30th through Sept. 1st, the Minnesota State Juggling Competition on Sept. 7th, and a Bocce Ball Tournament on Sept. 20th and 21st.

Renaissance Festival is operated by Mid-America Festivals, which operates 4 other similar festivals in other states and the Trail of Terror in October. The website is www.renaissancefest.com.

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