Renaissance Festival opens with new characters

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The time has come once again for a journey to a village near West Newton where the medieval world comes alive with chivalrous knights, fair maidens and Washing Well Wenches.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival -- 16th-century theme park -- opens for six weekends on a former farm in Westmoreland County. Among about 300 people working in costume will be the royal family, jugglers, strolling minstrels and jousting knights on horseback.

The six weekends vary in theme, from a Celtic fling and wine revelry to a children's weekend. Delicacies to be had include turkey legs, fudge and macaroni and cheese on a stick.

New in the village this year will be Franco, master hypnotist; Flourish, a fire juggling, hand balancing, acrobatic stuntstress; female a cappella trio Chaste Treasure; Isabella, Cursed In Stone, fondly known as the Living Statue; and The Owlchemist Queen, a wise feathered creature.

Here are the themes:

"An Adventure To The Past" (Aug. 23-24): A celebration of music and dance as they put out the royal welcome mat for King Henry and Queen Katherine's arrival at the castle. Meet the new cast of villagers and take advantage of the "Buy-One-Get-One Free" offer this weekend only at participating Wendy's Restaurants.

Children's Weekend: Prince, Princess & Pirate party (Aug. 30, 31, Sept. 1): Young lads and lasses, children ages 12 and under, experience the festival for free with a paying adult. Special activities including the Prince, Princess and Pirate costume contest, the Royal Quest, knighting ceremonies and photos with the King and Queen.

Wine Revelry (Sept. 6-7): Weekend dedicated to "The Nectar of the Gods" features grape stomp competitions for prizes, as well as free sampling of some of the finest vintages from local Pennsylvania wineries.

Celtic Fling (Sept. 13-14): Traditional sounds of Celtic musicians, Scottish pipe bands and madrigal singers throughout the realm. Sing along with our Irish Troubadour as he performs popular ballads. Irish dancers and bagpipers also will be featured this weekend as well as the Men in Kilts contest.

Pirate Invasion (Sept. 20-21): Pirates invade the festival for rousing good tales and tunes of high-seas adventures, swashbuckling sword fights and a jolly good time.

Oktoberfest: A Final Huzzah (Sept. 27-28): Village hosts King Henry and Queen Katherine present an Oktoberfest celebration and a farewell to the festival season with German favorites such as bratwurst, sauerkraut, and chocolates. German music, dancing, lederhosen and tavern wenches will add to the merriment.

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