Among the many new things at the Texas Renaissance Festival that visitors can expect when they arrive at the site are all the protocols they will need to heed just to get inside.
In keeping with COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, admission to the grounds for the 46th annual festival – which runs weekends from Oct. 3 through Nov. 29 – is limited to 25,000 a day and tickets must be purchased in advance and are date specific. Guests who suspect they may have or have been exposed to the virus are asked to reschedule for a different time or to exchange tickets for next season.
Masks will be required at all times unless eating or drinking (or utilizing one of the designated mask-free break areas). Smoking will not be allowed this year. Guests will be encouraged to stay socially distant from persons or groups they are not with. Frequent hand washing is encouraged, and multiple touch-free hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the grounds. Areas that are frequently touched are wiped down and cleaned several times a day. At night the grounds are sprayed to help with sanitation.
“We’ve got thousands of folks involved in making sure these COVID Texas guidelines are being met and we have worked very transparently with the state and the county and they have absolutely enabled us for success with all the feedback they have provided us,” said General Manager Joe Bailey. “So it has not only been an internal team effort, but also the state and the county and the local municipality as well. It’s been a huge effort over the last four months.”
Bailey said the state is looking at their plans as a model for other events to follow.
“When we had our last walkthrough and review with the state health department, they said they said they wanted to use our safety plans and guideline plans as a benchmark for other outdoor events opening,” he said.
What’s new this year
Inside the grounds there are a lot of new things to see and do, in addition to traditional favorites. A new area has opened up that includes a pirate ship, tower slide, comedy gazebo, and an escape room. The Enchanted Knoll is an expansion of the Enchanted Forest and in addition to the new attractions also has several of the new shops at New Market Village.
The pirate ship is a museum located next to the Dragon Tower Slide. The Forest Gazebo is home to the Washing Well Wenches, a “clean” comedy act if such mild bawdy humor could be considered as such. For sleuths and Harry Potter fans, there is the Airy Botter Escape Room, which takes place in the headmaster’s office. It’s designed for groups of four to eight people. The gazebo will also be the location of the daily costume and twice-daily mask contests.
“We’ve added a contest this year for the best decorated mask,” said Kim Bryant, the school days coordinator. “TRF patrons are super-passionate about dressing up when they come here … We’ve given them the opportunity to create a mask the coordinates with the rest of their ensemble.”
“It was a great way to incorporate and acknowledge the reality that is coronavirus – what we will call the plague – and have it just be part of the fun rather than denying it,” she added.
A new ride this year for the children is the DaVinci Flying Machine, a sort of human-powered merry-go-round.
Another new feature this year is the multi-level Wyrmwood Public House. The pub has a stage that will feature an aerialist and other entertainments, mixed drinks, and an upper deck with an expansive view of the grounds.
There are also several new shops opening up, along with new food vendors. Among the new acts this year are singer, songwriter, and accordionist Amanda Kitchens. Dangerous Curves will make their debut at The Barbarian Inn this season. Thomas Wood the Pyrojuggler will make guests laugh, scream and squirm three times daily at the Cloister in the Green.
About the Texas Renaissance Festival
The Texas Renaissance Festival is the nation’s largest Renaissance event, hosting 450,000 patrons annually at the 16th century European village. There is also a campground for those who want to stay the weekend. The Texas Renaissance Festival is located one hour north of Houston near Magnolia. Date specific tickets are available online at www.texrenfest.com, Groupon, and at H-E-B Business Centers.