The organizers of the Second Annual Bayonne Renaissance Festival are excited to see their hard work finally come to fruition. To promote the event, which will take place at 16th Street Park on Saturday, July 22 from noon to 7 p.m., men dressed as pirates joined forces with two councilmen to hoist a flag with skulls and crossbones over the balcony of Bayonne City Hall. With fake swords in hand, the men yelled “Argh” from the second-floor balcony accompanied by a string duet dressed in medieval-style garments.
“I’m the king who presides over the festival kingdom,” said festival-goer Steve London outside city hall wearing a shiny gold crown. “Anyone can be king of their own country at the festival.” London said that last year people came as queens, barons, duchesses, wenches, and everything Renaissance-themed. Costumes are not required, but evidently are encouraged. London invites anyone with an extra crown to bring it with him or her to the festival. “I was king of Mendozia last year,” said Daniel Mendez, Jr., also dressed in medieval garb.
What started as Shakespeare in the Park three years ago evolved to include everything Renaissance themed, and then some.
The festival organizers went the extra mile this year, working closely with the city to obtain a liquor license while booking jousters, archers, musicians, face painters, and Renaissance entertainers of all kinds. The Vic Tavern will supply beer and wine, which will require ID verification in exchange for a wristband, which with enough creativity can be integrated into a costume.
“We’re hoping to bring forth the most ambitious festival ever to come to Bayonne.” – Adam Semanchik
More clink for the buck
“We’re hoping to bring forth the most ambitious festival ever to come to Bayonne,” said festival organizer Adam Semanchik. Despite the rain that dampened the fun at last year’s festival, many still turned out, and organizers are hoping to capitalize on last year’s success. “This time we got it right,” Semanchik said.
Jousters, for instance, were out of the question last year. City officials did not want the field torn up by horseshoes, so organizers found jousters who employ barefoot horses that tread lighter than shoed horses. Organizers say they are hoping for three tournaments, which would blow Medieval Times out of the English Channel.
“Last year we did really well,” said festival organizer, Mary Dunlap-Beales, who has been attending Renaissance festivals since she was a kid. “We had most of our entertainment return, and with some additions.”
Through getting to know Renaissance festival entertainers last year, Dunlap-Beales networked into the “tightknit” community. “These acts bring real followings because they’re all on the circuit,” she said.“A lot of the performers know each other.”
Also new this year will be a women’s professional sword fighting group called “The Vixens,” a group that will show kids how to practice archery, and another that will practice knife-throwing.
The entry fee for the festival is$10 for adults, and will be free for kids 16 and under, while various activities, food, and drinks cost extra. Twenty percent of the entry proceeds will be donated to the Bayonne Elks Chapter 434.
Semanchik said this year will be “bigger and better” than last year’s, partly thanks to a larger budget of $20,000.
“A lot of Renaissance festivals have million-dollar budgets,” said Semanchik of well-known festivals such as the one hosted on Governor’s Island in New York every year. He noted that the Bayonne Renaissance Festival has many of the same performers as other festivals, partly because the groups that make the Renaissance circuit relatively small. It also costs much less to coordinate with Bayonne’s local government than with New York City’s.
“The local government here has been just fantastic, and very supportive,” said Semanchik, as city council members yelled like pirates overhead. “Everyone is excited.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.