My browser history just got awesomely weird.
The medieval wrestling "bone dance" video led to a Facebook page for the Floridian knights of War Horse Productions and then a site that sells fancied-up cow horns for drinking/blowing. I learned the Brotherhood of the Bottle is into games like pass the orange, that the Jade Skigh Isle guild demos sewing and torture, and that Battle Wolf mercenaries have a “bad advice pirate booth” (in case you’re tired of the usual psychics). And I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival.
The upcoming weekend of October 9-11 marks its 22nd year in Las Vegas, and for the past 15, Brian Saliba has been making sure the magical machinery works.
“I’ve seen my fair share of what you refer to as ‘the craziness,’” he says with a laugh. He's program supervisor for special events with Clark County Parks and Rec, overseeing the transformation of Sunset Park into a fantastical realm where people in street clothes look like aliens, because the general commitment to bringing ancient and unreal things to life is so hardcore. “It’s a lifestyle. They look forward to this all year long. They literally plan their vacation schedule around the dates of our fair,” Saliba says of the hobbyist guilds that make Age of Chivalry's landscape so colorful. “They love this, whether they’re historical, educational or combative. One of the guilds, Adrian Empire, they actually do a steel tournament, and these guys put on a full suit of armor and they go to town. And they’re really hitting each other; it’s not choreographed.”
Saliba says that while the festival ran smoothly for a long time, a renovation of Sunset Park a few years back took its toll. Age of Chivalry had to relocate for two years, and even after it returned to its roots, Saliba says the fest has been in a rebuilding phase.
“This year we kind of overhauled it,” he says, especially of the decision to create villages for the guilds, clustering their encampments and entertainment offerings. There are seven—English Village, Barbarian Bourg, Royal Recreators, Royal Court, Fairy and Fantasy Village, Pirate Port and Kids Kingdom—and Saliba says each will have food vendors and others selling wares that match up with the vibe of the guilds, not to mention a stage for performers and activities for kids. “There’s so much activity that it’s really hard to put the focus on one versus the other. So we just tried really hard to embrace the strengths of all of the guilds and try to unify them in one area that would hopefully have a bigger impact.”
Another new element involves the pirates, who will be ferrying people across the park’s lake. Saliba says a prop company built scenery and special effects that will make the dock stroll and boat ride like Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. And while such fantastical elements are key to any Renaissance fair, Saliba insists that historical authenticity is woven in. “If you walk into Adrian Empire, they’re gonna put you in armor and you can take pictures. They’re gonna teach you how to do rope making, whip making, smithing, camping, cookouts. Or you can throw axes, knives, hammers, javelins. It’s all about teaching you, ‘Well, in the 16th and 17th century …’ They’re gonna teach you what fencing and archery were like, and what live combat was like.”
Other guilds that aren’t as into sharp objects offer everything from period literature lectures and candle-making lessons to pirate yoga and story time with Leonardo da Vinci. In the educational vein, Age of Chivalry’s Free Friday promotion means kids with students IDs get in free from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and Saliba says there’s a 40-page syllabus for teachers who want to build lessons around the spectacle.
He is excited to see a new local act involving 10-year-old triplet magicians who appeared on America’s Got Talent, and once again to catch the authentic blacksmith at work. But he doesn't really pick favorites.
“How do you compare joust to a band, or a band to a bird show? You can’t,” he says. “They’re equally as entertaining.”
As for Vegas’ take on the Renaissance, Saliba thinks it’s special. One reason is that in all of its years, Age of Chivalry has retained its core, such that generations of families are taking part. And another is that this is Las Vegas, so instead of narrowly defining which characters fit, the fest can dig some scurvy pirates mingling with princesses.
For all of the details, from parking to attractions and vendors, get thee to Age of Chivalry’s site. And dust off that drinking horn.
Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival October 9-11; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $8-$15/day; $35-$45/weekend pass, Sunset Park.