Jousting, royalty and sword swallowing for the lads and lasses @

August 28, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Rogues, wenches, monks, fair maidens, outlaws, squires, princes and princesses -- all oblivious to the heat -- sashayed about the muddy, straw-covered streets of the 16th-century Tudor English village as a group of peasants danced with abandon near the town square.

Visitors to this temporary land of merriment and mayhem, re-created in Anne Arundel County, were respectfully addressed milady, milord, lass or lad yesterday -- as Maryland Renaissance Festival tradition dictates -- by decree of the king and queen.

The 18th annual festival opened in Crownsville and once again took festival-goers back to a time when men bowed and kissed ladies' hands and bravely fought for them as swordsmen.

Clad in full armor, heads held high, they also gallantly rode strong horses and jousted, representing their realms.

The festival features 230 performers, 10 stages and 145 crafts people, whose purpose is to entertain visitors in the mock village, where turkey legs as large as a man's fist can be bought.

"I think it's wonderful. There's just so much to see," Star Richardson of Salisbury said yesterday. With her friend Paige Ware, she was in a throng that watched King Henry VIII meet Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, on the day they were to be married.

As King Henry and his court arrived and took to the stage to meet Anne, a middle-aged man somewhere in the crowd yelled, "Long live the king!"

Ms. Ware and Ms. Richardson said they figured it was only fitting to see the king meet his Anne. The historical record is not so happy. The story goes that Henry fell in love with the German princess based on a flattering portrait of her by Hans Holbein. To his dismay, she was not fetching in the flesh when she arrived in England.

For Dave Clark and his family, who live in Washington Grove, it was the third Maryland Renaissance Festival. Yesterday, he and two of his sons, Travis, 9, and Jamie, 11, sat in the second row peering at Johnny Fox, sword swallower extraordinaire, trying to determine if Mr. Fox's act and swords were real.

The thought of a close-up view of someone swallowing swords made Mr. Clark's other son, Philip, 6, a bit squeamish, said his mother, Lee Anne Gelletly, explaining her hasty retreat with the boy before Mr. Fox started.

But Mr. Clark, Travis and Jamie watched closely as Johnny Fox, actually John Fox of Boulder, Colo., went through his magic. The rabbit in the hat trick turned out to be Mr. Fox's hand stuffed inside a scarf. They saw him do card tricks and twist his hand, 360 degrees, without moving his arms.

Then they saw what they came for -- Mr. Fox swallowing small and long swords. One was 22 inches, stretching from his chin to his navel. He also swallowed a serpentine sword, a long screwdriver and a long, purple balloon that never came back up.

Mr. Fox said he's earned his living for 15 years swallowing swords. In the 1950s, he had an uncle who performed the act at sideshows, but it's not something people see much now, he said.

His uncle "showed me how to relax, be confident and stand straight," said Mr. Fox, who added that he has hurt himself a half-dozen times swallowing swords through the years.

FESTIVAL DATES

The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs for eight weekends. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day through Oct. 16. For ticket information: 1-800-296-7304.

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