It’s hard to believe that our exciting trip to Gainesville to checkout the Hoggtowne Medieval Faire almost didn’t happen! That’s right, the weather on the east coast was really bad, and rain was forecast for Gainesville for most of the morning. Considering it’s around a 4 hour trek from where we live, our friends and I decided maybe next weekend would be better. Much to my surprise the Mrs. vetoed our plans and pretty much said we were going anyway. Since the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire is hosted at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, we were all really concerned about the weather and the muddy aftermath that might be left behind. I’m not quite sure what made my wife so adventurous that day, but I’m glad she was!
Because it takes quite awhile to get to Gainesville from our house, we took some back country roads and caravaned with our friends all the way out West. Stopping in Palatka for a picnic lunch, the weather finally cleared up, but was just a little chilly. Not bad weather after all for the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire! About another hour or so and we finally emerged from the woods and started to see signs of civilization again. We were surprised to see that there was no charge for parking at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, and it was simple to get there, we just followed the signs. At one point we actually went through the fairgrounds, and wound back up on the same road we entered through, but again we just followed the sings and eventually found a nice spot to pull into. They had multiple volunteers parking folks, and I was really quite impressed. They all seemed animated and very happy to be there helping out. It sounds silly but it really set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Next we unloaded the boys, grabbed some bottled water and essential diapering supplies, then we took off on foot for the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. It was actually pretty cool, as we had to go down a path through a wooded area which lead to a service road for the fairgrounds. I would imagine travelers in medieval times would have had a similar experience, so it was a great introduction to a historic feeling. We passed a rather large ticket booth where the lines moved very quickly. From this point on it was common to see people dressed in medieval clothes, and some were in “character” complete with swords, bows, and arrows. It seemed very strange at first when I stopped to think about it. We were willingly taking out kids into a festival that allowed weapons! Some were wooden and just for show, but others actually had read bows, arrows, and very sharp-looking metal swords. The police officers on scene didn’t even seem phased by it. Kudos to the Gainesville PD!
We had finally arrived at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire! After checking out the map and schedule of entertainment, we realized that there were two main rows, and decided to walk from one end to the other making our way through the many booths, vendors, and stalls that were setup. Some were decked out in time period specific decor, and others were more modern. For example, Ye Old “Subway” was of course a Subway restaurant that was setup to feed the masses. There were food vendors of every type and variety serving deep-fried favorites as well as faire favorites like smoked turkey legs and more. At each end of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire were beer tents setup serving locally brewed beers and of course you could add some mead to your drink!
As we leisurely strolled down the path of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, we saw shows, characters and more. There were countless stages setup where families could enjoy all sorts of things like belly dancing, magicians, comedians, musicians, and much more. Because my son is about to turn 3, I had some reservations about what me might see at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in regards to violence and scary characters, but as a family we handled it really well. There was one show at the beginning where maid Marion was sword fighting a few gentleman, and he actually asked me why they were fighting. With a quick discussion that they were pretending, he seemed to understand but we quickly moved on. When we had a chance to see some fully armored knights fighting, it was much more exciting and since they were fully armored, I don’t really think he understood that there were people inside all of the metal. The bottom line is that you may want to have a preemptive conversation with your little ones prior to attending the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, but it was all make-believe and no real harm was done. As a side note, the many actors and participants put on a great spectacle and were really incredible to watch! They certainly knew how to work the crowd.
In addition to the many shops, there were activities that you could pay to participate in. For example, there was an archery area where you could shoot blunt tipped arrows at armored human targets defending the castle, or try your hand at axe throwing! The prices were very reasonable, and the folks manning the booths were very friendly. For example we let our little guy try his hand at archery, and he seemed to get a kick out of it. We didn’t let him shoot at the armored woman standing a few feet away from him, as we didn’t want to set a bad example, and she was glad to step to the side so he could aim at the wooden targets.
Did I mention the rides at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire? That’s right, there were rides as well! For a few dollars you could ride a horse, camel, and even an elephant! The big crowd pleasers were the sea dragon swing, and the Barrell of Bedlam! These “human powered” rides were pretty cool even by todays standards! Despite being made of wood, there were safety cables, and even safety holders inside to rides to keep everyone in place. If you’re wondering, they are owned and operated by individual ride companies that specialize in Medieval Faire type entertainment, and I noticed that they even had the official ride permits like you would see at the county fair, so they were legit.
We were able to experience quite a bit in our time at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, and even sampled some of the beer and smoked turkey legs. I was very impressed because the beer flowed heavily, but the crowd wasn’t a drunken mess. When we go out on family adventures, I generally don’t partake but made an exception this time around as I wanted to sample the mead. It was worth it, and got a chance to meet a few friendly people while waiting in like at the ale house. In fact, everyone was friendly, not just the beer line folks.
After nibbling on some grub, we stopped by the artisan village at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. This section of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire was very educational, and featured a bunch of demonstrations. We even sampled a few homemade pretzels that were made right on the camp fire! The last event for our day was the jousting competition! We were certainly entertained! Being very much like the entertainment at the Medieval Times dinner show, we were able to cheer on the knight that was hovering around our section. “Sir Henry” knew how to work the crowd, and put up a valiant fight. He made it all the way to the finals and even won, the tournament, only to be taken down with a sneaky blow from behind while accepting his winning status. I’m sure the entire thing was a show, but the jousting certainly had to be real. You can’t fake the types of hits those guys take on horseback.
After the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire tournament, we made our way back to the car and we were off for a dinner at Satchel’s Pizza with our friends to reflect. While dining on some of the very best pizza ever, we discussed the value of the entertainment at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. It was agreed that despite the ticket price of $17, a the fair itself was reasonable for a family of 4. Once in the Faire, drinks could be had for $1 and up, and even the food prices were reasonable. Top that off with the games and rides being cheaper than you would expect at say a county fair, and it all added up to a great value. If a family wanted to save, coupons are available throughout the community for $1 off each ticket and visitors can bring their own food if they wish. I’m sure you probably couldn’t bring in a full grill or anything, but a backpack full of sandwiches and bottled water wouldn’t be a big deal.
Overall, we saw some really cool things that we had never seen before, and my little guys seemed to take it all in. I don’t necessarily think I would get into character or anything next year, but who knows, maybe as a family we’ll make some cardboard shields and some wooden swords next time around. As a side note, if you’re looking for a movie tie in, you may want to watch the movie “A Knights Tale” before going. I think that would have been really awesome as a great way to introduce little ones to the concept of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire!
Did get a chance to go? Don’t worry, you can still go this weekend!
Hoggetowne Medieval Faire Details:
|Date(s):||1/24/14-1/25/14||1/30/14-2/1/14||Time(s): S&S 10am – 6pm (Friday 9:30am-3pm)|
|Address:||2900 NE 39th Ave Gainesville, FL 32609|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$48 Admission|
|Rides/Games vary at $2-$5 Each. Meals range from $8 to $10|