PHOTO STORY: Niles Renaissance Faire sees success in its third year

NILES – Over the weekend, Plym Park was transformed into Queen Kiriel’s grounds for the third annual Niles Renaissance Faire.

Bards, knights, Vikings, fighters, jailers, dragons, a royal court and more transformed the grounds into a step back into a realm where magic exists. Multiple stages around the park hosted entertainers, sword fights, comedy, story time and musicians.

In her royal tent, Queen Kiriel, also known as faire organizer Carrie Nyenhuis, sat with her royal court all dressed in period appropriate attire. She said the event on Saturday was “fabulous.”

“We printed 200 pages of scavenger hunts, and we are already out,” Nyenhuis said midday on Saturday. “It’s been huge. People have been here all day, and we had a line where people were waiting to get in. The turnout is way better than I expected.”

In the queen’s tent were prizes to be given out to young attendees who had collected “dragon eggs” from around the vendor booths throughout the faire, encouraging guests to seek out what each vendor offered.

Just over the way in the center of the faire, voices announcing the Swords of Valour’s announcer “Haven the Hare,” also known as Allen Bernstein, announced the beginning of their unchoreographed stage combat show.

“Today, we’ll be performing to you using live steel,” Bernstein said.

The words drew a crowd.

After the multiple duels, Bernstein said he had been working at festivals since he was 10 years old, when his stepmother worked a festival.

“When I became older, I found this troupe and joined up with them. I’ve been sword fighting with this group for 15 years,” Bernstein said.

Last year, Bernstein said there was a Viking-themed festival in mid-Michigan in February before COVID-19 put a pause on all over events the troupe had booked. This year, things are looking better, even with his smaller crew due to COVID-19 limitations members have faced.

Another member connected to the group, Kelly Weinberg, was happy to be running the jail attraction at the festival again.

The jail aims to show that everyone is guilty of something, and to be humble, Weinberg said. The jail includes a stage where members of the public may have to suffer such punishments as performing the hokey pokey, singing a song, or following a Simon-says type instruction.

“It’s all fun, we try bring other vendors into it to be involved,” Weinberg said.

While the Corvus Cohort had attended the Niles Renaissance Faire in the past, it was flanked by a white tent full of historical artifacts and reproductions. The Swordsmanship Museum and Academy had its inaugural year with the faire, said Jerry Berg, the attraction’s director and educator. Through running the Corvus Cohort, which reenacts daily moments from the 16th century, including weaponry and battle, blacksmithing and encampments, Berg also has launched the museum. The museum hosted swords from the Civil War to historical Japanese weapons.

“People have a natural interest in swords. You go to any kid, they pick up a stick, and swing it like a sword,” Berg said. “We would love to take that inherent curiosity and interest in history and teach people about history and culture. It’s ironic the weapons that split us apart in our mind, are the things that will bring us together.”

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