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Hark in the Park

Harking back to an Elizabethan shire, it's "all for fun, and fun for all" at the 26th annual Colorado Renaissance Festival, which has borrowed from the Three Musketeers' call to arms for this year's slogan. "Good morrow to thee, welcome to our shire," shouts Michael Shaffer, who plays the Marquiche...
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Harking back to an Elizabethan shire, it's "all for fun, and fun for all" at the 26th annual Colorado Renaissance Festival, which has borrowed from the Three Musketeers' call to arms for this year's slogan.

"Good morrow to thee, welcome to our shire," shouts Michael Shaffer, who plays the Marquiche -- which literally means the royal egg, or court fool. "I ask people to drop their cares and woes and play with us."

Running every weekend from June 8 to July 28 in Larkspur -- about a thirty-minute drive from downtown Denver -- the festival allows visitors to pass through an ornate castle-like front gate and to go back in time, landing in a sixteenth-century English country festival. At this royal affair, King Henry VIII and Queen Anne hold court, while gypsy duos engage in swordplay and naughty nymphs sing bawdy tunes. "It is basically a show within a show," says Jim Paradise Jr., one of the festival's organizers. "There is something under every tree."

The trumpets sound three times each day, announcing the full-contact jousting matches in which armor-clad knights battle for the hands of fair maidens. "It's full combat -- horses and everything," Paradise guarantees. "We try to be as historically accurate as possible."

More than 225 artisans and craftspeople will be peddling their wares, with demonstrations of centuries-old art forms like glass- blowing and blacksmithing.

Merrymaking is the order of the day, and there are seven different stages featuring performances such as Theater in the Mud, a dirty version -- literally -- of Shakespearean classics; a madrigal choir singing Renaissance tunes; and the Puke and Snot vaudeville show. Other amusements include magicians, jugglers, sword swallowers, hypnotists and more. Young waifs can visit the petting farm populated by lambs, goats, calves, roosters, ducks and other animals. Or take a peek at exotic creatures, such as lynx, tigers, panthers and snow leopards, at the Center for Endangered Cats.

Attracting 225,000 guests over sixteen days last summer, the event cast its spell with roast turkey legs and freely flowing grog during theme weekends. Those included the Royal Ale Festival and the Love and Romance weekend, which was dedicated to lovers. That delicate gathering unleashed a royal wedding ceremony and a "renewal of vows" gathering. "It's really great family entertainment," says Paradise. "There is something here for adults and children of all ages."

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