43rd year of Renaissance Festival set to kick off north of Colorado Springs

Gazette |

--Be extra kind to the fishmonger and the rat catcher at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.

Offer them a cordial handshake or curtsy, perhaps even a "You are the finest monger of fishes" or "Good job on catching those rats" affirmation. These two festival characters are tied for lowest rank in the pseudo 16th-century Village of Larkspurshire, where a celebration is afoot as Good King Henry and his wife, Queen Anne, are scheduled for a visit, along with many of the royal family and other noble guests, including dukes, duchesses, counts and countesses.

The festival opens Saturday and runs Saturdays and Sundays through at the fairgrounds in Larkspur.

"We're very unique. People are able to get away from the everyday world," said Jim Paradise, vice president and marketing director for Rocky Mountain Festivals and the Colorado Renaissance Festival.

"We're so interactive, you become part of the experience. Everything isn't on stage and you sit and witness it."

IF YOU GO

COLORADO RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL

through , 650 W. Perry Park Ave., Larkspur, $25, $12 ages 5-12, free 4 and younger, cheaper tickets available online and at King Soopers; 303-688-6010, coloradorenaissance.com

About 200,000 people will partake in the village celebration by the end of its run. They'll eat giant turkey drumsticks and Friar Tuck's cinnamon rolls, watch jousting knights on their steeds and such acts as Zilch the Torysteller, the Kamikaze Fireflies and London Broil, be hypnotized by Lady Amyelia, sample ales, partake in a Celtic weekend and check out the grape- stomping competition during Wine Revelry weekend.

Perhaps it's the cast of about 70 village characters that's most appealing. They're managed by Eric Mindykowski, who knows a few things about the period after working the festival for 17 years. He's inhabited multiple roles, including Dirty Kevin, a guard for her majesty and a Russian prince. Now, in addition to his role as casting director, he portrays the lord mayor of the village, the guy responsible for throwing the party for the king and queen's visit.

Actors must stay in character for the duration of the day, which proved somewhat challenging to Mindykowski when he started.

"They come up and say, 'Hey, Eric,' and you deflect a lot and redirect that energy," he said. Mindykowski lives in Centennial and owns a document management consulting business. "For most of us who work there, it's a passion. Most of the street cast all have Monday through Friday jobs, and on weekends we get together and do this."

The cast has four weekends of rehearsals leading up to opening day. They do improv games and take acting workshops to help them build their character and background, as well as learn how to interact with fellow cast members and festival visitors.

"If I'm lord mayor, how would I interact with somebody on the royal court?" said Mindykowski. "Or the rat catcher, who's below me in rank? We're trying to depict that time period. Your rank is everything, and what you're doing in the village really shows your status in life."

And expect a different sort of answer should you approach an actor on a festival street.

"Today we try to answer everything short and quick, like with text messages. We teach them that when answering questions, answer with 25 words instead of five words. It's all about the language and the experience."

Jennifer Mulson, The Gazette,

jen.mulson@gazette.com

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