Texas Renaissance Festival History
The Texas Renaissance Festival opened in 1974 with just three stages and 15 acres of what was once an old strip-mining site. The festival’s founder, George Coulam, built the festival from humble beginnings with a handful of vendors showcasing their wares on blankets under the trees, a small group of performers offering improve-style entertainment and a dedicated group of patrons who wanted to spend the afternoon in another world. Today, the festival has grown into an incredible dream world spanning nearly 60 acres, featuring eight-themed villages lined with close to 400 unique shoppes and a cast of thousands entertaining patrons from all over the world!
Hundreds of thousands of patrons journey through the Royal Gates each season to experience the merriment and magic of the New Market Village by interacting with jugglers, minstrels and fortunetellers while exploring the variety of hand-crafted works of pottery, sculpted metal, woodcarvings, jewelry and other unique treasures found throughout the realm. Magical gardens, festive games, hands-on demonstrations and colorful costumed characters enhance the atmosphere while continuous entertainment takes place on more than 25 stages around the grounds. The TRF, the largest Renaissance themed festival in the Nation, continues to grow, from just 33,000 patrons opening year to a record-setting 606,694 patrons in attendance in 2012!
True to its mission, the TRF provides an adventure-filled escape back in time where one can delight in the pleasures of a simpler age. The sights and sounds of the festival are reflective of the period which inspired its inception. In addition, hundreds of pines and other native trees and landscaping have been carefully designed and planted around the grounds and beside shoppes, which also stay true to the architectural styles of the Renaissance period, from their turrets to their deeply pitched roofs. Entertainers, shopkeepers and staff are dressed in 16th century attire and speak the tongue of lords, ladies, paupers and wenches, all of which create a truly authentic atmosphere.
Each year, the TRF management works to make the festival more spectacular and to offer patrons more value. Highlights of the festival’s development over the years include the addition of Sherwood Forest offering games and rides for children of all ages, along with the creation of several outdoor wedding chapels: the Water Garden, the Magic Garden (2001), the Roman Basilica (2002), the Chapel, the Rose Garden and the English Garden. The festival hosts more than 30 wedding events each year from traditional and modern weddings to themed wedding events and receptions as well as vow renewals, anniversary events and more!
In 1998, the King’s Feast Hall was introduced at the festival, offering patrons a seat at one of the most animate entertainment and dining options in the realm. The Feast continues to showcase the festival’s finest entertainers and provides a sumptuous multi-course meal with bottomless beverages and a take-home chalice. With the success of the Feast, the King’s Wine tasting was introduced and is quickly grew into another popular activity at the faire.
In 2000, a magnificent Greco-Roman revival stage, The Odeon, was added to house the growing performance groups, along with The Arena in 2003, which is the festival’s answer to the Roman Coliseum. The Arena is home to the acclaimed jousting troupe, the Hanlon-Lees Action Theater. The Joust, one of the most memorable shows at the festival, is held four times a day and is the most attended show in the park.
In 2004, the Texas Renaissance Festival celebrated its 30th Anniversary and to commemorate the milestone, the Cloister Stage was constructed to house the Carillion of Cast in Bronze, along with the addition of the Sherwood Bridge. By 2005, the festival had become a major tourist destination and expanded to eight themed weekends celebrating a different culture from the period.
A vast number of improvements were made to the festival grounds for the 2011 and 2012 seasons including new landscaping, improvements to many of the festival buildings and facilities, a series of new rides and games have been installed. 2012 saw the additions of the Barbarian Inn and the Hacienda San Jorge, two covered sit down dining establishments complete with entertainment.
In 2011 the new Tower Stage was built in the German Village featuring a beautiful new performance area as well as increased seating space for patrons. 2012 saw the rebuild of an old favorite, the Globe Stage. The updating of performance spaces will continue in 2013 with the upgrade of the Falconer’s Stage already underway.
The Fields of New Market Village, the campgrounds of the Texas Renaissance Festival, began a three year expansion project in 2012. The improvements include potable water stations, convenience stores, adding acreage and trees, increased security, restrooms, and eventually electricity and other modern conveniences. As part of the expansion, the entrance to the campgrounds was relocated which also assisted in reducing traffic issues.
In 2005, the festival also opened the Royal gates during the week to welcome thousands of students for the inaugural School Days event. The School Days program, designed as age-appropriate, educational and entertaining, has seen tremendous success in a short time. Students are invited not only to attend, but to immerse themselves by participating in contests. The School Days program welcomed more than 40,000 students in 2012, and continues to expand its reach to students, offering them a rare chance to see history come alive at the festival!
Thank you for being a part of our history; we look forward to sharing the tradition and magic of the festival with you for many more years!