In this the 45th season of the Texas Renaissance Festival, the Queen is quietly marking her 20th season in the magical kingdom in the town of Todd Mission.
Not one to talk about herself, she is quick to boast about the festival and all her 60-acre kingdom has to offer.
“It is our sapphire anniversary. It’s most wonderous indeed,” said Rosella Gonzales, who portrays the Queen of the Festival.
She, along with the King (Greg Taylor), are the faces of the largest renaissance festival in the country, and reportedly the second largest in the world (the largest being in England).
The Queen reigns with the King for nine weekends each October and November, ending with a three-day weekend after Thanksgiving. Each day brings a full schedule for her highness.
“The festival gates open at 9 of the clock,” she said during an interview Saturday at the joust arena. “There is a pre-show in front of the gates at 8 and 45, but the true gates open when the cannon goes off and his majesty and I enter the kingdom and then we watch all of our guests being invited, for we do have guests from all over the countries around Europe and all of the world.”
Much of her time is spent mingling among the commoners, posing for portraits, and engaging visitors with mirth and frivolity. There are also duties she must attend, such as parades and jousts.
“I preside over the joust and I attend all of the jousts. His majesty attends the jousts at 3 and 5 of the clock, and the rest of the time we wonder about the village thanking everyone to come visit us,” she said.
Noontime brings a festive romp around the kingdom.
“The parade is at noon and his majesty and I, along with everyone else in the village from our vendors to all of our countries do walk the parade. His majesty and I do bring up the end in a carriage. It’s a lovely parade and it goes throughout the entire village,” she said.
“We attend the feast hall and there are two feasts throughout the day. There is one at 11 of the clock and one at 2 of the clock and his majesty and I attend at the very end of the feasts in order to wish happy birthdays and anniversaries and say thank you to everyone who’s attended the feast,” she said.
Her royal highness said the best part of her job is getting to know people.
“I do so love meeting and greeting all of our guests but specifically the small children for they do bring the magic to the village, they are so excited and happy to see it,” she said. “The magic is
not relied only upon the children, for whenever someone walks through the gates in front of the village, I believe the magic encompasses everyone and I think just the joy that you see on people’s faces when you speak to them and interact with them, that is absolutely the best part of my entire day.”
Each week brings a different theme and last weekend was Return to Renaissance. It’s a new theme this year in recognition of 45 years.
“It’s quite confusing for we are in the renaissance at the moment. I believe the Return to the Renaissance is really showcasing Italy, Spain and England and what each of them has brought to the renaissance, for each of the various countries has contributed so many different things,” she said. “I truly believe that there’s a small bit of competitiveness between each of the countries to see which has brought most of the more important things to the renaissance.”
She said the King has not yet decreed if the theme will recur. Over the last 45 years, the festival has moved beyond the renaissance to embrace the more fanciful, including weekends for fairies, barbarians, the Transylvanian Court (think Addams Family), and heroes and villains, which more resembles comic book characters than Robin Hood or even Peter Pan.
“And when people visit the festival there’s so many things to see and do. There’s not only things like the joust and Clan Tynker and the falconers, there’s many stage acts but there’s also wonderous foods from all over various parts of the world,” the Queen said. “So there’s empanadas from Spain, there’s perogies in the Polish area, there’s lovely pizza in the Italian village, so there’s lovely food and drinks throughout the entire village and many things for people to do. In addition to watching the acts, there’s many interactive things; there’s games, there’s Da Vinci’s arcade, there’s elephants to ride, there’s a petting zoo, so there’s many things for everyone to do.”
Each night the festival concludes with a performance by Solar Rain (acrobatics with fire) and a fireworks show. For adults, the party continues well into the night at TRF After Dark, located in the back of the camping area.
“There is this wonderous entertainment that continues for adults 21 and over in the evening that is called the After Dark. And the After Dark is a bit of cirque de soleil and the showman got together, married and had a baby. There’s many acts, there’s dancing, there’s a karaoke, there’s a hookah lounge, there’s a cigar area, there’s food and drinks you may purchase,” said the Queen.
In the off season, Gonzales, who has a degree in geology, works in the oil and petroleum industry. She has also appeared with the Hanlon-Lees Action Theater, which, in addition to putting on jousts at TRF and other renaissance festivals, also does wild west shows.
For now, the Queen is holding court at the festival in tiny Todd Mission and enjoying bringing a little magic into the lives of tens of thousands of people each weekend.
For more information about the Texas Renaissance Festival, visit www.texrenfest.com.