Nationally-Recognized, Quality Local Journalism..

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to the Mountain State’s Trusted News Source.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

The West Virginia Renaissance Festival is returning this month for its fourth season to transport visitors to a world of pirates, knights and jousters.

Festival manager Dawn Kieninger and her partner have been working at renaissance festivals since 1979. When they decided to settle in West Virginia, they brought with them their love of the events.

“We both love West Virginia, and then we realized that there was not, in fact, a renaissance festival here. So it seemed like something we could bring to the state,” Kieninger said.

The West Virginia Renaissance Festival is located at 23439 Midland Trail East, in Lewisburg, less than a mile and a half off Exit 161 of Interstate 64. The festival is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Kieninger said she hopes the festival will reach 15,000 attendees this year, and benefit the surrounding area and the state.

“We try to encourage those people to also look around when they’re here and maybe realize that West Virginia is an excellent vacation destination that they can come back to,” Kieninger said.

Dawna Smith, owner of Freedom Market Place, which sells Amish custom-built shell homes and other structures, said she decided to sponsor the Renaissance Festival to encourage more people to come to West Virginia.

The Renaissance Festival “has the potential to bring in millions of tourism dollars to the state of West Virginia,” she wrote in an email. “The Texas Renaissance Festival draws almost 700,000 attendees during its fall weekend season. Maryland draws almost 300,000 during its season.”

While Smith said she is optimistic about the festival’s ability to bring more people to the community, she also recognizes that the event is still growing.

“It’s going to take several years of hard work and spreading the word, but it is only a matter of time. We have a jewel sitting in Southern West Virginia just waiting to be discovered,” she wrote.

Kieninger said the festival has seen steady growth in attendance and features each year. While the festival did not run two years ago, 2021 was its best year to date.

The festival helps boost various local businesses that serve as vendors, including Hawk Knob Appalachian Hard Cider, Swift Level Fine Meats and Mountain Dragon Mazery, as well as numerous West Virginia-based artists. On the festival’s third weekend, June 18-19, guests will be able to purchase beer from various local breweries.

The festival includes six stages featuring various types of entertainment, including theater, music and comedy. At the center will be an equestrian arena featuring jousting, tricks and performances.

Kym Ferguson, who has been performing at the Renaissance Festival since its inception, said last year’s festival helped return some normalcy to the community after a difficult year.

“We were really, really grateful that the West Virginia Renaissance Fair was one of the ones that did go ahead last year,” she said. “It was superb, and the reaction from people who just were so hungry for something to do and for life to kind of get a little bit back to normal.”

Ferguson plays the pirate Francesca Arrabiata, The Duchess of Parma, “Fastest Sword in all of Italy,” in “Nature of Mercy,” an interactive sword-fighting comedy show that travels to different festivals across the country.

Ferguson said she loves coming to the West Virginia Renaissance Festival because of the welcoming nature of the event and the community around it.

“I like the real camaraderie and the real sense of family that that area has and that Renaissance Fair has,” she said.

As a returning performer, Ferguson has seen the children who participate in her show grow over the years. She also has made friends in the area. She said she is excited to return to West Virginia to see its beauty and its people.

“It’s one of my favorite places on Earth,” she said.

The West Virginia Renaissance Festival will be open every weekend in June, beginning Saturday. Each weekend has its own theme. This weekend is Pirates Landing, June 11-12 is Celtic Crossing, June 18-19 is Beer & Barbarians and June 25-26 will be Bacchanalia.

Admission is $18 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 6 and younger get in free. For opening weekend, veterans, active-duty military and first responders will be admitted free, with proper identification.

For more information about the West Virginia Renaissance Festival or to purchase tickets, visit www .wvrenfest.com.

Reach Lara Bonatesta at lbonatesta@hdmediallc.com.

Recommended for you