What “started off as just a small group of people putting on a community event” has grown into an annual tradition, with the Robin in the Hood Festival getting ready to celebrate its 20th year.
Entertainment director DJ Carroll notes the team behind the event has grown throughout the years and so has the event, which is now “the largest Robin Hood festival outside of Nottingham, England.”
Each year, Gibson Park in Elmira is transformed into simpler times of knights and princesses.
“When people come out for their first time, we’re always super impressed with their feedback. We create an actual village for people to wander around,” said Carroll.
“You can take a walk up the trail into Sherwood Forest, to see where the outlaws live.”
Robin the Hood also has a knight school for people wanting to feel like a warrior and learn how to sword fight. The festival also has working catapults that kids are encouraged to use to launch things into the forest.
The festival hosts an approximate 50 vendors that set up in the vendors row area, there are wandering villagers and even a tavern painting the true picture of the era.
Carroll says for the 20 anniversary, “We are trying to do things a little bigger.”
This year’s outing will include new characters, games and shows. It will also see the festival bring in artists from outside of the area.
In simple terms, Carroll says “It’s a year for us to celebrate.”
Currently Carroll and his team are in the audition process looking to solidify a lineup of actors. Over the years the size of the team has varied.
“We’ve gone from as low as 82 and as large as about 140,” said Carroll.
A new role in this year’s festival are Vikings. Like the required combat training needed for outlaws and knights, “you have to audition and become part of our fight team.”
Other volunteer options are available, he notes.
“We are also doing auditions for people who are interested in doing shows and workshops, those are actual stages at the show.”
The festival always kicks off with an education day for school kids, which is another volunteer opportunity for performers, Carroll added.
Education day gives students the opportunity to experience what life would have been like during medieval times through a variety of workshops. Actors that audition to help with education day will be involved in facilitating some of these workshops, which in the past have included birds of prey, medieval armour and medieval medicine. Auditions for general actors or wandering characters are also being held.
Carroll explains the audition process,
“The auditions are pretty laid back; you basically come in, we talk a little bit and we do a little bit of improvised acting and you talk about what character you might be interested in playing,” he explained, noting no previous experience is required.
“The ages are as young as seven and … as old as whatever,” laughed Carroll.
On top of casting a lineup of actors, the festival needs some 30 to 60 other volunteers to make it run.
More information can be found at the festival’s website.