Jugglers, jousters come alive in Renaissance Festival village

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - The 2,000-plus people who turned out for the first weekend of the Oregon Renaissance Festival at the Washington County Fairgrounds were treated to a variety of performers such as storyteller and magician Jeremiah Wiggins, who spun tales about being the human ambassador of the faerie realm.So that’s what living in the 16th century would have been like!

That’s the reaction organizers of the inaugural Oregon Renaissance Festival want you to have after spending some time in a virtual European village — circa 1572 — that has been created at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro. A corner of the fairgrounds was humming with building activity for days as the English village, Somerset, took shape.

The Oregon Renaissance Festival opened to the public on Aug. 24, and it was as if a slice of the 16th century landed in Hillsboro.

“This will feel like visiting a 16th century village,” said Wanda Carr, one of the producers of the Oregon Renaissance Festival and manager of Minneapolis-based Renaissance Touring LLC, its parent company, as she watched the village be built from the ground up.

“It’s going really smoothly,” Carr said. “There are always hoops to jump through, but we’re feeling very good about it.”

Crews worked feverishly to build sets and create backdrops for the PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Great Cats World Park of Cave Junction put on a show complete with a white tiger performing tricks.

This event is geared to be much more than simply a day wandering around and looking at exhibits. Rather than a static display, organizers boast that a day at the Oregon Renaissance Festival will be akin to entering a virtual time warp. Professional actors in detailed costumes from that era will go about their daily business as if they were truly residents of a 16th century European village.

Knights, knaves, maidens, blacksmiths, musicians, street vendors, belly dancers — and even a sword-swallower — will entertain the throngs gathered at the festival’s four stages, and jousters on horseback will occasionally challenge each other to duels in the public square.

“Visually it will be a lot of fun, and there will be too much for you to do in one day,” Carr said. “The whole environment is (designed) to bring you back in time. It’s a great escape for the day.”

One of the festival’s performers will be Virginia Lee Rice, a Hillsboro resident who will play the role of Lady Mary Sidney.

“In history, she was a well-regarded member of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I’s court,” said Rice.

Rice, who minored in theater at the University of Oregon, said she heard about the auditions and decided to try out for a role in the festival. “I put together my monologue and brought my ‘A’ game,” said Rice. “I knew from the audition it was going to be something amazing, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Rice, who graduated from Liberty High School in 2008, said she’s impressed with the professionalism of the actors and actresses assigned to roles at the PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Shannon the Fortune Teller reads tarot cards in a colorful tent.

“Everyone has given more than their all for this show, and it is not one to be missed,” she said.

Rice, 22, added that she has an extra motivation to do well in her performances at the Oregon Renaissance Festival.

“I will be celebrating the six-year anniversary of my liver transplant during the run of this show,” she explained. “I know my donor would want to be a part of amazing things like this.”

Washington County will receive $71,500 in rental fees from the Oregon Renaissance Festival for hosting the village at the county-owned fairgrounds complex. The county will also receive a share of the parking receipts, as well as a percentage of the take from alcohol sales during the events.

The county’s employment picture will also see a boost.

“We estimate more than 350 employees — and counting — will be working at the festival,” Carr pointed out.

Hillsboro City Council President Aron Carleson said she believes the festival represents another positive step for the community.

“I’m looking forward to the new event in our community,” said Carleson. “Something different and exciting. I am thrilled for the fairgrounds to have filled a significant gap in rental time that will bring in visitors to our community. Hillsboro businesses will definitely see an impact with all the visitors it will bring in.”

According to Carr, the company’s goal is to sell about 5,000 tickets per day.

“We feel very fortunate to be here in the community,” Carr said. “This is the first annual festival. We want to be here every year.”by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Because there was no electricity or diesel fuel in the 16th century, even the carnival rides in the village of Somerset are powered by hand. Two villagers rotate a gear that moves the ferris wheel.

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