Annual Renaissance Festival features merchants, entertainers

By Sarah Hollis | 9/24/17 9:25pm

GVSU Renaissance Festival (5 of 14) (Dylan McIntyre's conflicted copy 2017-09-24)
GVL / Dylan McIntyre GVSU Renaissance Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.

Many things have changed throughout the last 22 years, but one thing that has stayed the same is Grand Valley State University’s annual Renaissance Festival. 

This year, the free event was held during the university’s Family Weekend and was host to various merchants, singers, comedians and sword-fighting groups. Merchants sold items such as clothes, jewelry and even silverware. 

The entertainers taught about the history of the Renaissance while they were putting on their shows. The crowd ranged from students attending for the first time to alumni who have been coming to the festival for years. 

“We have basically everyone from every walk of life,” said Vashti Gregory, president and administrator of the GVSU Renaissance Club (GVRen) and entertainment director of the festival. “We want people to come back. That’s part of the allure of it.”

GVRen definitely succeeded at getting people to come back. There were merchants, entertainers and alumni who have been coming to the festival for almost the entire time the club has been putting it on. 

For example, "Her Majesty’s Royal Guard," a full-armor fighting group whose members craft their own metal armor accurate to the Renaissance period, has been coming to the festival for 15 years. There are also several alumni who were part of GVRen while they attended GVSU who have been coming back ever since. 

Three of these alumni are Jennifer Willard, Kristy Eason and Diane Kowalski. Although a passion for the Renaissance is a large part of what keeps people coming back, it is also the sense of community and family that the festival has provided. 

GVL / Dylan McIntyre GVSU Renaissance Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.

“The best friends I’ve ever made in my life are from Ren Fair,” said Kowalski, who has been at 18 of GVSU’s Renaissance Festivals. “It changed my life.” 

The alumni, merchants and entertainers all join GVRen in dressing up as well. Most of them also have different characters or personas they play according to their role in the festival. Some performers even adopt an accent. 

“Some people keep the same character, and they just evolve the character and the costume," Willard explained. "Other people, as they mature, as they grow, as they learn, as they become a different person, so does their character." 

The Renaissance Festival also draws in GVSU students of all ages with the merchants, performances, colorful costumes and a raffle. Many students had never been to an event like the festival before and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Even students who have been to a similar event before are excited by GVRen's passion for this event.

“I really liked how much passion people had and how much they were really putting into it,” said GVSU freshman Michelle Dykstra. “I think it’s a lot of fun and that it’s a great place to be able to just kind of let yourself be nerdy and passionate and not have to be judged. I feel like that’s a really great thing about the Renaissance Festival.” 

The Renaissance Festival is a completely student-run GVSU tradition. If you missed the festival this year but are interested in taking part in more Renaissance-era fun, GVRen will be hosting other events this year, such as the Duke’s Ball.  

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