Waiting to welcome you to a fantastic Octoberfest, the German Court will be hosting our first weekend of the season.

The long-suffering head of the German Court, Duke Johann von Cleves III is a loving husband and doting father. He is a fair-minded ruler who always seeks the via media in any dispute. He is frequently seen chatting with his chief adviser: the eagle head on his staff.

His wife, the Duchess Maria von Cleves is a quirky, inquisitive lady who loves to sing. Sibylle von Cleves is their eldest daughter. Although a princess,she is more likely to be found out in the garden, helping make her native Bavaria more beautiful. Princess Anne von Cleves is not content with merely being royal; she has set her signs on becoming a queen, no matter what it takes. Her ambition is matched only by her fierce competitiveness, which can be seen as she leads cheers at the Jousting Arena.


The most outrageous, beautiful,talented, and crazy of her sisters, Princess Amalia von Cleves is madly in love with her jousting knight Sir Otto, but can still be seen stealing the heart of every man who crosses her path. Prince Wilhelm von Cleves is the Duke and Duchess’ only son. He is a studious soul with his head often stuck in the clouds. Princess Liesl Scharlachrot von Cleves is the youngest, and obsessed with finding the wolf she believes killed her grandmother.



Rounding out the court is Baronness Bernadine Munchausen, a vivacious, out-going teller of tales who has led a very adventurous life, which she will eagerly share. Helga von Ballbrech is a cousin to the von Cleeves, outgoing and sweet, but not  all there. She tends to live in her own little world. World-famous (at least in her own mind) opera soprano Gretchen Webber can often be heard with her beautiful voice raised in song.


Finally, and very importantly, Hans is the renowned maker of Zeigenbock and winner of the annual “Hold My Stein, Watch This” competition and a master of the drunken martial art of Beer Chi. Come celebrate a Sparkle Party with him and his pladdle squad.

All of the Royal German Court are eager to welcome you to the “Best Octoberfest EVER” the weekend of September 30th and October 1st. Lift up your cares, and your stein!



The most timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly court you will meet in New Market is undoubtedly the English. Um, French. Er, Frenglish? Englance? When you have the Doctor in your court, anything can happen! As a Time Lord, the Doctor has proven to be a very interesting addition to the festivities, and although desperate to find his Tardis, manages to entertain the court in his role as chief alchemist.


Thanks to losing a bet to the king of France, King Henry VIII is taking care of several French princesses. The Princesses Madeleine and Margaret of Valois have come, with Madeleine sharing her love of dance in the lane near The Globe, and Margaret showing her martial spirit as she encourages her knight at the joust. They are accompanied by the beautiful (and rich!) Lady Vivienne LeBouff, who also enthusiastically leads her fellow Frenchies in supporting their side at the joust when not gossiping or spreading fashion advice.



The English court of course revolves around their adored (or else!) sovereign, Henry VIII, by the grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the faith, and of the Church of England and Ireland in Earth supreme head. Whew. Having lost his beloved Jane, Henry finds himself once again a single man. Henry’s eldest child, Princess Mary, is once again in her father’s good graces, and is a gracious ornament to the court. Time will tell if she is able to stay in favor with her volatile father.


His former in-laws, Sir John and Lady Margaret Seymour, keep a close eye on all the court doings, with John ever-ready to tell a tale of his exploits, and Margaret busy with planning for tea and watching their grandson Prince Edward. Alas, lacking a title, they will enlist visitors in their quest to receive one from Henry. Henry’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, has joined the court from her home in Scotland in order to spread her love of haggis, whiskey, and making fun of the French. She and  Henry’s former sister-in-law, Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, will cheer for the English champion at the joust. Lady Rochford is well known for her love of merriment, and is always up for, how do you say, a good time.


Lovely and ambitious, Lady Lucy Somerset  seems particularly interested in Henry’s search for a new wife. The wife of Henry’s physician, Lady Margaret Bacon-Butts, is an enthusiastic lover of all things bacon, and can be seen having a chin wag with Lady Seymour as they discuss the scandals of the day.

Clad in scarlet and busily marrying happy couples, the jovial  Bishop of Bath and Wells is often in procession with the joyful wedding parties as they parade to their marriage venue.


Although most often found at Dance School, the brothers Howard, His Grace Thomas,  Duke of Norfolk, and his younger brother Edward come to visit their friends and family in the English court as often as they can. As Lord of the Dance, Thomas is called upon to help with court dances, while Edward is always up for a romp with his old buddy “Hank”, as he calls him.

Barring their attendance at a wedding, the hospitable English serve tea at 3:30 and invite all and sundry to come and sip some Earl Grey and nibble a Jammie Dodger.


We have many, many faithful patrons who visit our fair village every year, some of them even visit multiple times within a single season. We love those folks!

But we also have many, many guests who will be visiting for the first time this year. We asked our “repeat offenders” to give their advice on how to make the very most out of your first Festival visit, and here is what they have to say to you:

  • On a big attendance weekend, traffic can be a challenge. It is strongly advised that if you’re coming from the south, go ahead and drive the extra miles it takes to come in from the north. Highway 105 can be reached from east or west, and consistently has less traffic, both at arrival and exit times. It will save you time. Trust us on this.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. We continue to be amazed at women who try to wear stilettos or high heeled sandals, or just people in general who don’t wear shoes that are really suited to walking in dust, pebbles, or heat. This park is really big. Really. Do yourself a favor and wear supportive, protective shoes.
  • Plan ahead! We suggest you go to the website and check the entertainment schedule. Find the times and locations for the shows you want to see and make a plan. Don’t forget to leave time for games, rides, and shopping, if those are activities you want to participate in. Our app will also have the schedules, but cell phone service can be unreliable. So buy a program! It has a map and a list of all shows, shoppes, and menu items.
  • Hydrate and wear sunscreen. Look, we know lots of folks come out to have a good time, and that might mean drinking alcoholic beverages. We do have a lot of great ones! But remember to hydrate, whether drinking alcohol or not. Whether it’s hot or not, but especially if it’s hot, drink a lot of water. Or try a pickle juice popsicle.
  • Bring cash. While some of the food booths now take cards, cell service can, as we mentioned before, be spotty. It’s good to have cash as a back up. We have ATMs, but the fees are a little steep. Tip the entertainers. While they do have a base salary, they, like waiters in Texas, really do depend on those tips for rent and groceries. But if you can’t tip the entertainers, at least smile and say “Thanks.”
  • Buy your tickets ahead of time. It’s cheaper and you get in the gate quicker.
  • If you’re coming with kids: check show ratings in the program. Some shows are not appropriate for youngsters or those who are easily offended. A wagon is easier to maneuver than a stroller. There’s a little quiet, grassy space near the gardens at the center of faire, where you can take a breath and put the littles down for some crawl time. Put your child’s identifying info on them somewhere, or stop at the Info Booth for a tag.
  • Many shoppes will hold your purchases for you until just before fireworks, or may even deliver them to the Info Booth, where you can pick them up on your way out.
  • After a day of walking, stop at the massage booth near the joust arena (#501/502) and get a foot massage!
  • Designate a driver.
  • Take any ribbing that may come your way in good fun! Some of our performers are especially talented at poking a little harmless fun- kick back and have a laugh!
  • And finally, a word from a one of our loyal patrons: “Slow down. Take in everything. So much sensory overload for first timers makes it easy to miss the special moments. Catch shows that interest you, but don’t rush to get from one to the other. There is so much going on around you that you’ll miss it in the rush. Get there early for a good parking spot and opening cannon. And stay as late as you can to watch the fireworks and take a Ghost Walk. And, if you feel it, camp and take it all in. Take in every moment.” Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good philosophy for every moment of every day, isn’t it: Take in every moment.


We hope to see lots of new faces this year. Feel free to stop and say hi to the folks in the Media Center, the Info Booth, the shoppes, or even the crowd of garbed up regulars in front of the pubs. I promise, we’ll give you a warm welcome and a hearty “Huzzah!”



We’ve all had a day to rest, so it’s time to reflect on the amazing event that we just had here at TRF: Middlelands Music Fest! This show, a partnership with Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac, and C3 Productions,  has been years in the making, and as a first time music fest attendee, I saw a lot of really amazing things. Here are a few of those amazing things:

I learned some new vocabulary. Primarily, these new terms are:

“PLUR” (an acronym for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect), is the mantra used over and over as festival goers encouraged each other to clean up after themselves and watch out for the health and safety of others. According to Wikipedia, PLUR “may be interpreted as the essential philosophy of life for ravers and clubbers, at least insomuch as it relates to interpersonal relationships, with basic directions on how people are expected to behave at a rave gathering. This universalist philosophy underpinning the tribal dance culture which began circling the globe with the rise of the internet, theoretically takes precedence over any chemical or musical aspects of the rave scene.[1] Raves represent a modern ritualistic experience, promoting a strong communal sense, where PLUR is considered an ideology.[2]” (Source: wikipedia, see footnotes at bottom of post)

PLUR sounds like a pretty awesome mantra, if you ask me.

“Kandi” is the sharing of gifts, primarily beaded bracelets, that rave kids use as a way to meet new people and make friends. Our office manager even came back with a purple beaded kandi bracelet. When the young man gave it to her (she was out in the campground collecting garbage with a couple of other office staffers), she had to do particular hand motions and say the words peace, love, and unity. The kiddo slipped the bracelet from his wrist to hers over their linked hands. That’s a pretty sweet kandi treat.

Boof- look this one up. But it became a big joke on the forum- kids were talking about boofing jars of peanut butter and a margarita machine.

EDM is loud but fun

My personal music taste is way different from this music- I am usually listening to Broadway show tunes, Sara Bareilles, or classic rock. But if a different style of music brings joy to someone else, that’s cool! I never got tired of watching thousands of kids start dancing, jumping, or head banging in unison when a really great beat would drop. I laughed out loud every time I watched it! Your jam may be Garth Brooks or Metallica or Jay-Z. And there were even a few older adults here having a great time! Music exists to bring joy. I saw a lot of joy this weekend.

Totems are clever

The festival kids carry these totems, they’re signs or other objects on poles. They use them as a visual to help find each other, and also as statements about who they are. I loved watching the guy carrying the “Free Love” sign just give hugs. He gave hugs to anyone who wanted them- girls, guys, whatever. The world can always use more hugs, right?

Archery tag looks like a blast

The event organizers who offered this amazing event provided fun stuff for festival kids to do during the day, before the concerts got started. Craft tables, yoga, rope-walking, and archery tag were big hits.


Stilt walkers are like goddesses

These amazing women walked all over our faire site and campground. On stilts. In costume and makeup. It was hot. They were non-stop sexy.


Climbing trees can be hazardous

One ambitious guy climbed, like Zacchaeus in the New Testament book of Luke, to the top of a tree to see one of the headliners from a better vantage point. It was a really tall tree. Security stopped the show and used a lift to bring him down to safety.

Sometime fresh eyes can bring fresh ideas.

I have loved the TRF grounds for 17 years, and so many people have loved them for twice as long. I walk them several times a week, so I know them pretty well. But when the Middlelands folks came in, they saw our grounds with completely fresh eyes, and they brought new ideas to us about how the space could be utilized. We are still wrapping our heads around some of it- can we incorporate the cool new bridge that connects the campground to the back stage area? Should we reconfigure the campground a little bit? Perhaps we can add some night lighting to enhance the evening ambience of the festival? We still aren’t sure how it will all play out, but it was tremendous to see our beautiful grounds used in creative new ways.

law enforcement

Local law enforcement is amazing

With something like 30,000 festival goers, we had just under 40 arrests, and no accidents on the roads. A huge team of law enforcement officers from various agencies worked together to keep everyone safe. These men and women are incredible. We owe them a lot of gratitude!

So to all of you who came- thanks. We loved having you here with your PLUR and your fun. We hope to see you again- maybe this fall!

  1. St. John, Graham (2004). Rave Culture and Religion. Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 0-415-31449-6.
  2. Jump up^ Marshall, Douglas (2002-11-01). “Behavior, Belonging, and Belief: A Theory of Ritual Practice”. Sociological Theory. American Sociological Association. 20 (3): 360–380. JSTOR 3108616.

TRF-wk8-8110She’s gracious. She’s intelligent. She’s unbelievably popular. She’s…the Queen of the Texas Renaissance Festival. She’s also my friend!

So many of you know her, have taken photos with her, have given her little gifts, let her hold your babies, have taken her to your hearts. But you may not know the lady who wears the crown: Rosella Gonzales.

I distinctly remember the day she was cast. My husband Travis (now TRF’s Marketing Director) and I auditioned to join the TRF Performance Company the same year Rosella did, 2000. But she auditioned on a different weekend. That night, we met Entertainment Director Jeff Baldwin and his lovely wife Brandi (Asst. ED and the fantastic Fancy Bordello) for Tex-Mex at Tortuga’s in The Woodlands. Jeff was excited about a beautiful Latina woman who had auditioned, and he wanted to cast her as Catherine of Aragon. Fluent in Spanish, beautiful of face and figure, he just knew she’d be a great addition to the company. And she was.


When I asked Rosella what made her decide to audition, she said it was the challenge. Her brother and a friend, Clif, thought it would be a fun new opportunity, and Rosella thought she might just be cast as a Spanish wench. Prior to the Performance Company, she had only spoken one line on stage in a high school play. Rosella remembers that the improv part of the audition came pretty easily for her, but that the script reading was harder, and her hands shook as they held the script.

Of her first year as Queen Catherine, Rosella remembers being terrified throughout the season, but that the seasoned performers helped and encouraged her immensely.  She told me about a knighting ceremony rehearsal at which she just knew she would mess up a line. She shared that worry with the King (Greg Taylor) and Basil Drake (Dane Bennett), who assured her that she’d do fine, then promptly forgot their own lines in the run through.

Nina Burks, who at that time played Anne Boleyn, tells a story she calls “The Queen is a Screamer:”

“For the Record: This is told solely from my point of view.  It also happened years ago, but the main points of this story are true and accurate as I remember them. Background Information:

A)    It’s the year 2000.  Rosella Gonzalez was enjoying her first year as Queen Catherine of Aragon.  It was also a seriously bad rain year.

B)     I was playing Anne Boleyn and was in charge of a group called “The Queen’s Ladies.”  We were supposed to be her waiting women, even though we never really waited on her.  I ran the Queen’s Ladies with the direction of them being learned noble women who were to each have some kind of charitable cause, like a group of rich Hollywood types.

C)     “The King’s Men”, another similar group, were agroup of the ‘King’s buddies’ that were more like a bunch of Frat Boys out partying at this festival.

D)    Miss Ellen was still playing Queen Margaret of Scotland.  For those that don’t know Miss Ellen need to be aware that she is THE QUEEN of what we call F.Y.B. aka “F___ Your Buddy”.  Despite what the name implies, it means putting your acting partner on the spot in some ridiculous situation and watch them squirm their way out of it.  This is why she’s my faire hero.  Seriously. She and Dane have been masters of this game for years.  Should you see the two of them next to each other, either get in the game or hide, because you’ll be the target.


So it was a beautiful sunny day in October at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  The Queen’s Ladies, King’s Men, The Pirates and Queen Margaret were killing time before the start of the afternoon Knighting Ceremony by playing a game of “Cringers and Screamers” next to the old battlemound.

The Pirates had developed this game several years before and it was a particular favorite.  The game basically consists of picking an appropriate ‘target’ in the near distance.  The ‘Target’ is generally some cute young thing that’s walking in a pack of other cute young things.  Once the group decides on the ‘Target’, bets are placed and Capt. Drake would take a round about course to sneak up behind the target as they were walking. At which point he would VERY Loudly scream “GARRRRRRRR”in their ear.  If the ‘Target’ Cringes,it’s one point.  If the ‘Target’ Screams, it’s two points.  Should there be no reaction, it was a draw.  (I just can’t seem to recall if there were points for pants wetting.)  The winner was whomever chose the appropriate response of the Target.

So, we’re playing this game. We’ve all won some and lost some. And we were in the middle of picking a new target.   I look up the hill from the battlemound toward the Wharfside Music Gazebo and see the procession of the King, Queen and Guard.   “Captain Drake!  What about Her Majesty?”

“Oh No…..that wouldn’t be a good idea..that’s just….No”.

Miss Ellen takes out a hand full of coins, flings them at the ground, raises her fist in the air, throws her head back and says “SCREAMER!”

Now.  This was NOT Queen Margaret challenging Capt. Basil Drake. This was, however, Miss Ellen triple dog daring Dane to do it.  Dane was defenseless. His FYB master status was at question and Miss Ellen knew it. It was truly a glorious sight to behold as she sat there and stared at him with her trademark impish grin.  He had no choice but to accept the challenge and the characters got into the action of making this shenanigan happen.

Mary Allen and I –think- Jody Townsley were sent to distract the guards.  Alan Linnen is particularly easily misled by these two vixens.  As they were being led off to the side by these pretty things, Dane took that moment to pounce with a mighty “GARRRRRRRRR!” into the Queen’s Ear.

Rosella SCREAMED and jumped what I swear was 10 feet in the air.  As she reached the peak of her trajectory she spun in mid air,  then Queen Catherine came out and started hurling Spanish insults as she was landing back on her feet.

Dane starts running down the hill to where the rest of us are dying laughing.  As Dane is running, Rosella is tearing him a new one in English and Spanish.  I’m pretty sure her hair was also on fire because there was smoke certainly coming out of her ears.  Greg (who plays Henry VIII) is screaming at Dane “DRAKE!  DROP!”

Dane falls to the ground and Rosella starts jumping all over him.  Literally.  Jumping. With boots.  He’s red from laughing.  We’re by the battlemound absolutely in tears over this.  The crowd is completely entranced as to what the hell is going on.

Rosella gets done tenderizing Dane’s back and then sees us.  Yup. The rest of us…The ten or so King’s Men, the eleven Queen’s Ladies, the seven or so Pirates and one very pleased with herself Miss Ellen.

She comes tearing down the lane, red faced, upset and half laughing.  Behind her is Greg, who obviously can’t decide if he’s pissed or if he’s laughing.  All of us (minus Ellen) hit a knee.

They tear into us while trying so hard not to break character. We are all having to look at the ground to keep from busting apart.  She is telling us how disappointed she is with her ladies.  As I was the head of the Queen’s Ladies, I get the brunt of the fury.  “Lady Anne!  Do you have any control over these ladies?  What sort of maids are you!…” Then Greg pipes Up “AND GAMBLING!  When did I authorize any of you to gamble?”  “Your Majesty!  It was all for charity!  We were…ummm…gambling our humble earnings in hopes at educating the children!  YES! The Children of this poor poor village.”

Ellen is just laughing with that grin on her face while we are taking our needed beating.

Greg finally gets Rosella to gather herself under the nearby arbor.  We ladies decide to supplicate ourselves to our queen by laying face down in the muck.  And when I say muck, I mean muck.  We were head to toe in damp leaves and detritus and cat urine smelling muck. All of this while our hoops are perpendicular to the ground.  We were a hell of a sight.”


Have you ever wondered if the Performance Company has a good time?

Many of you will remember the character “Mona Lisa, played by Stacy Bakri, who also played Mary Boleyn and joined the cast the same year Rosella and I did. She reminded me of the following:

“I remember the day, I want to say it was 2002-ish, that she did not show up at TRF in the morning. Turns out, she was at the ER because she had become violently ill during the night and it was so bad that she deemed it prudent to go to the hospital. Being the amazing trooper she was, she ended up making it to TRF in time for the noon parade. That was some serious dedication right there.”

Rosella lives a very full life outside the TRF grounds. A geologist who works in the oil and gas industry, she manages accounts and helps clients deal with software, geologic, and engineering issues. Her career has enabled her to travel extensively, with Spain, Australia, and Ireland being favorite destinations.


In addition to travel, Rosella loves playing sports like soccer and volleyball, horseback riding (she has the sweetest little filly named Sucre), and sewing (in addition to the gorgeous costumes that TRF has made for her, she has made some beautiful costumes of her own).

She has two sons, twins Isaac and Anthony, who spent their teen years here at TRF. Her grandson Christian can now be seen accompanying her to all of her royal stops, including the joust, on a Festival day. In fact, on the last Monday, after packing up camp to head home, Christian asked how long it would be until Festival, and upon hearing the answer, said, “Oh, I have to be sad for ten months?” It’s a special place, young man, it really is.


Photo by James Stender

When asked what her favorite part of being Queen is, Rosella says, “I love playing with the kids. Families come back year after year and you see kids growing up. I love interacting with the patrons. I also love that in my professional life I am not longer afraid to get up in front of people.”

I am just glad that in the spring of 2000 Rosella also decided to audition for TRF, so that my life, and the lives of so many others, could be blessed by knowing her, whether as Rosella or as Her Majesty, The Queen.





First Place, Action Photo, Eric Juarez, Crosby High School

Here lately, there have been a lot of flame wars in the world of social and traditional media- it’s a hotbed of controversy regarding the role of the press in our modern day world.

But here at TRF, we dig the press- especially when it’s written and photographed by the winners of our high school journalism competition!

Each November, students come from all over the region to attend TRF’s School Days. Last year, over 66,000 students, teachers, and parents came to learn about art, music, dance, crafting, science, and history. Students competed in theatre, band, orchestra, choir, trebuchet building, costume construction, essay and poetry writing, and journalism. We really love these two days, and so do the students who attend.

So today we will feature the winners of the high school journalism contest. Each of these students saw the Festival in a unique or impactful way that day, and then shared it with us. From TRF’s performers to student performers, or makers to gamers, School Days had lessons for all.

Now this is free press we can all get behind!


First Place, News Photo, Kourtenay Price, Dobie High School

Apothecary Concocts Ancient Healing Elixirs

by Bryan Najera Demoraes, Crosby High School, First Place, news story

His overcast eyes watch from behind the counter. His pointed hat, gray like his irises, falls at the tip as he sits in his cornflower blue robe, waiting.

This is the Wizard, and here is his lab.

“This is the apothecary,” Sakeeta Ehlenfeldt said, “Everything in the shop is made by either myself or my family. Just about everything we have is made from old family recipes.”

Estelril Apothecary, owned by Sakeeta and his wife, creates products that start with pharmaceutical grade ingredients. From bath salts to incense to their latest addition, beard oil, all items follow what Sakeeta calls “the old fashioned way,” made in small batches or individually.

“Most anything we make using whole herbs are made one at a time,” Sakeeta said, “If the recipe says two berries of this and three berries of that, it’s in each and every one because we’re more concerned with the integrity of the family recipes than we are about doing a quicker fix.”

Sakeeta learned of natural medicine when he was six years old from his grandfather, a Native American medicine man. Since then, he has refined his skill and combined efforts with his wife, whose European family practiced old Celtic herbalism. The cultural union is visually seen in their apothecary’s logo: a Celtic knot encircled by a dreamcatcher. Together, they have preserved these formulations, which they estimate to be four to five centuries old, and also shared them.

“I have always, because of my grandfather’s teaching, made products like these for friends and relatives at the holidays,” Sakeeta said, “It was actually ten years ago this year that my wife said, ‘You are always more calm and more relaxed when you’re working with the herbs and essential oils. You need to do this as a business.’ So I cashed in a 401k and started this business.”

Advised that the Texas Renaissance Festival was the best place, Sakeeta and his wife submitted their product line and answered their questions, until they received a surprise in their inbox: “‘Congratulations, welcome to TRF.'” Then came procuring a booth, which was resolved when one of Sakeeta’s friends from another fair sold his. It should have taken them longer to get accepted and find a shop, according to Sakeeta, but in a series of coincidences, it did not.

“It was all happenstance,” Sakeeta said, “It turns out that the major apothecary at TRF had retired just before they received our application, which is why it didn’t take us three years to get in. They were looking for a replacement for their existing apothecary when they got out application. So everything was just almost like it was ordained, everything was at the right time at the right place.”

Like its origins, Estelril Apothecary’s products are considered a fortune to many customers because of its quality and price. Many lotions, shower gels, and massage oils, for instance, are sold for $12 and bath salts for $8.

“I’m not here to make money; I’m here to help people,” Sakeeta said, “I could charge more for my products, and they’d still sell. That’s not what I’m about. I’m trying to make it as low cost as I can because I know my products help people.”

This consumer fairness is why many of Sakeeta’s peers call him “the Wizard.” For Sakeeta, it’s humbling yet metaphorically accurate.

“Everybody says they’re magical,” Sakeeta said, “I’m a positive thinking person, and I believe in visualization. And I do visualize what the products are supposed to do as I make each item. So from that standpoint, yes I do feel they’re magical.”


First Place, Feature Photo, Eddie Torres, Crosby High School

From Faerie Queen to Lady of the Court

Ren Fest Staffer embraces new role, shares magic with children

by Unity LaRouche, Willis High School, Second Place, News Story

Wake up at 6 AM. Get dressed. Go to work. Alicia Barnhardt has the same morning task as many other hard-working Americans. Though one may argue that her routine isn’t so usual.

Barnhardt exchanges a business casual skirt and blouse for an Elizabethan gown or the majestic wings of a faerie. Her makeup is is heavier, highlighting the mirthful face of Titania, Queen of the Faeries. Barnhardt’s dress may seem unusual, but it isn’t so surprising after learning she works at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Each fall, she passes on a bit of magic to the children she meets, brightening their day.

“I think one of the very best things about working for the festival is the fact that I get to interact and socialize with so many little children,” Barnhardt said. “I get to make them believe in something, and it inspires them to push themselves further in life than they ever thought was possible.”

Barnhardt’s normal character is the Queen of the Faeries, Titania, from William Shakespeare’s “A MIdsummer Night’s Dream,” whose personal strength and infinite love make her a role model for herself (Barnhardt) and her audience.

“She’s a very strong-willed individual and that she has an admiration and love for children that is unbounded,” Barnhardt said.

Barnhardt has had plenty of practice bringing the majesty of the faery folk alive, and has begun to branch out, exploring other, more historical roles.

“I have now been playing this role for 6 years out of my duration at the festival, but I have been a faery for 8 years,” Barnhardt said. “Playing Elizabeth Stafford was an experimentation to try something new for school days.”

Barnhardt’s experience in theatre has allowed her to immerse herself in these diametric roles and successfully audition to participate in the fair for the last nine years.

“I was an avid theatre kid in highschool,” Barnhardt said. “In the spring you audition and then the art director gives you your part.”

Despite her love for her craft, Barnhardt admits that sometimes it’s all a little much, with her extensive makeup and the heavy daily-preparation required of her job.

“Let me tell you there’s mornings where you are like, ‘can I just go back to bed?’ ” Barnhardt said.


First Place, Portrait, Shelby Melendez, Dobie High School

Medieval Madness

Students attend RenFest

by Joshua Mica, East Bernard High School, Third Place, News Story

The smell of medieval food, the sound of trumpets and drums in the air, and the sight of people dressed as if they are living in the 1400s. This is the Renaissance Festival. On November 1st, students from East Bernard High School traveled to the Renaissance festival to experience the medieval way of life of the early 2nd millennium.

Here, the students learned about the daily life of a citizen during this time. They were educated in the concepts of wizardry, mythology, tradition, and the daily diet.  “We learned about the different cultures throughout the day,” junior Whitney Stavinoha. “It was really fun to see how people lived over a thousand years ago. I can’t wait to go back.”

In addition to learning about the cultures, students also participated in various activities, including knife and ninja star throwing, long bow and rifle shooting, and sword fighting. “Before we started throwing the knives and ninja stars, they showed us the correct throwing form,” junior Keaton McDonald said. “After that, I was nailing those knives into the targets set out for us. For getting one to stick into the target, they gave us a free kiss card, letting us give that to a person of our choosing and they would have to kiss us. I was really nervous!”

The students left at the end of the day feeling content with what they experienced that day. “I was really happy with how the day went,” junior Rylyn Walters said. “I already have tickets to go again, and I can’t wait!”


First Place, Fine Art Photo, Jackie Salazar, Navasota High School



Wee Peeple Doll Constructions celebrates 30 years at Texas Renaissance Festival


If you ever take a moment to wander the lanes and explore the quieter shoppes that TRF has to offer, you might have strolled into Wee Peeple, a charming little cottage near the Odeon Stage.For more than 35 years, Kandra Niagra, owner and operator of Wee Peeple Doll Constructions, has hand-crafted one-of-a-kind art dolls, known as Wee Peeple. What started out as a hobby has transformed over the years into a thriving business that continues to gain popularity.

“I began making dolls in college as a way to express myself,” Niagra says. “A little later down the road, it was suggested to me that I should start selling my hand-crafted dolls to the public.”


Each doll is completely handmade from beginning to end. Each nose is hand-sewn and each face is hand-painted with acrylic paint. A 5/16-inch dowel is attached to a wooden stand and runs down from the head of each doll to ensure the doll is freestanding and sturdy.  The dolls are then stuffed with polyester fiber and draped with various fabrics and synthetic hair.

Niagra displayed her dolls for the first time at a show at Galvez Mall in Galveston, Texas, in 1980 where she sold a total of 32 dolls. Three years later in 1983, Niagra began her run at the Texas Renaissance Festival after receiving a nod of approval from the King himself.

“My favorite part about being a merchant at the Texas Renaissance Festival is being able to get immediate feedback from my customers,” Niagra says. “My most popular items in recent years have been my clothespin fairies, each one handmade and unique just like my other dolls.”


We think it’s magical to wander the courtyard at Wee Peeple, it’s full of trees and shade and delightful doll surprises!

While Niagra enjoys the new customers that come to explore her artwork, she says she has a large number of returning customers as well. She has a column on her sales page for returning customers and has found that she can have up to a 90 percent return rate. She also has more than 1,200 subscribers to her monthly newsletter.

“I like to keep in touch with my customers,” Niagra says. “They can see what I am doing in my everyday life and will come in and request something they may have seen in my monthly newsletter.”


Since 1980, Niagra has created over 10,000 soft scripture dolls, each one being completely individual and different from the others. She wants her dolls to be able to help people, and once they do that, she believes their destiny has been fulfilled.

Niagra has a Facebook page, “Wee Peeple Doll Constructions” to update her customers on the latest news coming from her “little Doll Shoppe”: