Attention lords and ladies: renaissance festival returns to Leamington

Don your garb, tune your lutes and save some shillings for the canteen: the Leamington, Ont., renaissance faire is back for its second year this weekend. And despite being a new tradition, the group that started the festivities is actually older than the municipality itself, which will be celebrating its 150th anniversary this summer. Afternoon Drive102:46:40Leamington district agricultural society shares history\nThe Renaissance Festival kicks off in Leamington this weekend as the town celebrates 150 years. Older than the town itself, one of its mainstays is the agricultural society. Afternoon Drive host Matt Allen paid them a visit to learn more about their legacy.Renaissance festivals are a trend that started around the 1950s, where attendees role-play as if they were living in the 17th century. Those in attendance will dress in traditional costumes and enjoy jousting competitions, axe throwing and even sword fighting. Vendors will sell goods such as herbs and crystals and there will be displays featuring birds of prey. Cheryl Harrison (left) is an associate director with the Leamington District Agricultural Society, which has served as a social hub for the community for over 175 years. (Matt Allen/CBC)Cheryl Harrison is an associate director with the Leamington District Agricultural Society, a group that has been serving the community as a social hub for more than 175 years. The renaissance faire was started by the group and will take place on the society fairgrounds, a historic location for the municipality. “[This] was a place for the community to meet before Leamington was a town. They brought their fruits and vegetables and everyone came to the fair to show their wares,” she said.”There was harness racing and the original grandstand was out along Erie street. It was just a fun time.”Harrison says the festival was successful last year and the group is looking forward to a larger production this weekend.”It’s a bigger event this year. We’ll have people coming from far and wide [and] more vendors. It’s going to be wonderful.”The festival is a new event for the society, which also runs demolition derbies, horse races and the Leamington Fair. They also played a role in what once was the Leamington Tomato Festival. Dan Wiper serves as the president of the Leamington District Agricultural Society. He also helps to maintain the grounds and horses. (Matt Allen/CBC)Dan Wiper is the president of the agricultural society and is also the grounds maintenance worker. He looks after the horse stalls for the harness races, another tradition put on by the agricultural society that’s been ongoing for more than a century. “[On race day], people come from all parts of town. [You see] people running, and when they see their horse coming around they’re jumping up and down. It’s really interesting, it really is,” said Wiper.Wiper believes traditions like the horse racing are important to continue as the society moves forward and introduces new concepts like the renaissance festival.Racehorses in stalls at the Leamington district agricultural society’s fairground barns. Harness racing has been happening on the grounds for more than a century. (Matt Allen/CBC)”I was a horse man all my life and I’ve always been around horses. I love watching them, it’s something to see.”The second annual renaissance festival kicks off May 11, with gates and vendors opening at 10 a.m. Tickets are $25 each. The festival ends at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 12. 

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