Hearing that it's almost time for Texas Renaissance Festival creates a Pavlovian response of sorts: We start drooling at the thought of ridiculously oversized turkey legs, we begin to shout Huzzah! and prefix all of our sentences with "Ye Olde," and we rummage through our cosplay wardrobes for those popular themed weekends: barbarians, heroes and villains, pirates, kilts and togas.
We're sure to see a return of perennial favorites: Ded Bob Show, Rondini, Birds of Prey and the noontime Grand Marche Parade. So what's new this year? The park expansion is being pushed to 2019, but joining the more than 200 festival performers are ventriloquist Philnic the Great, the musical juggling antics of The Toobadours, and the comical Norse singing sensation The New Tribesmen.
Our food writers will delve into all the particulars of the gustatory offerings (and believe us, there are plenty), but be on the lookout for the Royal Jewel, the fried ice cream dessert made famous this summer on television's Carnival Eats; and The Bierrock, last year's winner-take-all sensation on Royal Chef Showdown.
But perhaps the biggest news coming out of TexRenFest is that our favorite anachronistic event has become the hottest new wedding destination. We can only swipe left and right so many times before Cupid's arrow finally strikes. First comes love, then comes marriage, and last year saw a record-breaking 63 weddings on the festival's hallowed grounds.
"We'll have more [this year]," says Vee Brauner, TRF's wedding and event coordinator. "We're already booked at 68 for the season and they're still continuing to call."
Brauner says she and her team will facilitate as many as six or seven ceremonies a day, though they're spread out at five different venues and not all wedding ceremonies include receptions. Some newly minted couples will forgo the reception and turn the festival into their own decadent yet romantic playground.
Perhaps most interesting is that Brauner has seen a shift in period costumes and attire for the weddings. "This is my eighth season and when I initially started we had more people dressing in costume. [Now] we probably have half and half; the bride will wear a traditional wedding dress and we'll see the groom in a kilt."
In regards to traffic and parking, the organizers do have some helpful advice. Arrive early and leave late, ignore directional apps because they might steer you to neighborhood street closures, and approach the festival grounds from the north.
"Take I-45 north to Conroe and exit onto Highway 105 east. Go approximately 25 miles on Highway 105 to Plantersville and turn left onto FM 1774. The festival is only six miles south on FM 1774.
Take Highway 290 east to Highway 6 in Hempstead, then go north on Highway 6 to Highway 105 in Navasota. Take Highway 105 east approximately 15 miles to Plantersville. In Plantersville, turn right onto FM 1774 and go south for six miles to the festival entrance."
The Texas Renaissance Festival runs September 29 through November 25, open 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and November 23, 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission, 800-458-3435, texrenfest.com, $12.95 to $548.
Texas Renaissance Festival Themed Weekends:
September 29-30, Opening weekend, Oktoberfest weekend (Dance a polka or compete in the bratwurst eating contest or Oktoberfest costume contest.)
October 6-7, 1001 Dreams weekend (Compete in the fiery Dragon Wing eating contest; dress as a faery, sprite, elf or other fanciful creature and compete in the fantasy costume contest.)
October 13-14, Barbarian Invasion weekend (Prove yourself in tests of strength and skill; compete in the worst dressed barbarian costume contest or turkey leg eating contest.)
October 20-21, Pirate Adventure weekend (Compete in the best dressed pirate contest or fish-n-chips eating contest.)
October 27-28, All Hallows' Eve weekend (Little goblins can trick-or-treat throughout the village while braver souls will venture inside Slayer's Castle; compete for prizes in the kettle corn eating contest.)
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November 3-4, Roman Bacchanal weekend (Compete in the Roman themed costume contest at the biggest toga party around, or carbo load at the spaghetti eating contest.)
November 10-11, Heroes and Villains weekend (The battle between good and evil comes to a head here as heroes and villains show off their armor, capes and masks in the costume contest.)
November 17-18, Highland Fling weekend (Eat a Scotch egg while wearing a kilt or tartan, dance a reel to the pipe music, or compete in the haggis eating contest. Bonnie lasses will vie for top honors in the Bonnie Knees costume contest.)
November 23-25, Celtic Christmas weekend (Witness the magic of Christmas as the festival grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland. Father Christmas will be on hand, plus there are holiday costume and pumpkin pie eating contests and shopping galore for the upcoming holiday season.)