Fighting. Outlaw behaviour. Family fun. As the last 13 years have demonstrated, the three mix just fine at the Robin in the Hood Medieval Festival, which returns to Elmira next weekend.
Gibson Park will be transformed into Sherwood Forest in order to welcome thousands of visitors for the annual ode to Hood, his Merry Men and the rest of the gang from Nottingham.
Some 1,100 Grade 4 students from the region are expected to visit the festival on June 7 to learn about medieval life, a visual demonstration not available back in their classrooms. It’s a hands-on experience to augment their studies of the era, with the kids making their way through various stations, including knight school, archery, music and birds of prey.
Many teachers have chosen to attend the festival over the traditional (and costly) trip to Medieval Times in Toronto, which has, in the past, concluded students’ medieval units, said festival spokesperson Shayna Meadows.
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Following the afternoon’s educational portion, the festival will be offering up a free evening of entertainment for the public, something of a sneak preview of the full festival experience the following day. A new addition to the schedule, the community night will run from 6 to 9 p.m. While there’s no charge, donations will be accepted.
The main event follows on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Throughout the day, those in attendance are treated to magic shows, knights in battle, jesters, musicians, jugglers, comedy, fortune-telling and, naturally, archery demonstrations. There are also numerous merchants on hand selling jewelry, leather goods, armour, toys and other period novelties.The inspiration of artistic director DJ Carroll, head of the drama department at Elmira District Secondary School, the festival captures the romantic spirit of the medieval times – the royalty, the knights, the battles – with a story featuring the beloved characters of Sherwood Forest.
The Robin Hood saga, the popularity of which prompted the festival in the first place, helps to feed its growth.
A legend that has lived in tale for more than 800 years – scholars today still argue over whether the story is fact or fiction and, if true, who was the actual man behind the name – the Robin Hood story is a genuine crowd pleaser. The multitude of books, movies and television programs dedicated to the leader of the merry men of Sherwood attests to the enduring appeal of Robin Hood.
What started out as a small group of EDSS students has expanded to more than 150 actors, plus a cadre of volunteers and vendors. Perhaps a third of those involved are now from the wider community, Meadows estimated.
“It’s mainly still students, but there’s a big group of community people – it’s growing.”
More information can be found online at www.robininthehood.com.