Photo Album: Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival

Off To The Renaissance Festival

Texas has no shortage of excellent Renaissance and period festivals. There’s the Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) in Plantersville in the fall, and in the spring there’s Scarborough Fair in Waxahachie (we have a town called Waxahachie–but you have to say Wax-ay-hae-tch-ee like a Texan or you might as well not say it). But if you’re in the Central, South, or West Texas, Sherwood Forest is a pleasant compromise.

Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival

Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival is nestled between Austin and Houston on scenic Highway 290. Year-round camp grounds for season-pass campers and small-scale campers make it convenient to stay for the weekend. In 2018, Sherwood started March 3 and continued through April 22.

Sherwood is no small affair. Though it has grown since it’s inception, Sherwood strikes a beautiful balance between casual weekend fun and the commercialism synonymous with TRF. Almost every attraction available at TRF will eventually make its rounds at Sherwood, attractions like Arsene the Magician, Rondini the Magnificent Escape Artist, Tartanic, Sound and Fury, and the fire dancers. Of course, there are some things you can only see at TRF. Cast in Bronze can only be seen at TRF, and I believe there is also a different group that does Birds of Prey. Adam Crack was also not billed this year when we attended, though he was present in 2017.

Sherwood Forest is one of the only Renaissance Festivals in Texas to feature an all-day theatrical event. Sherwood boasts a wonderful cast for a park-wide theatrical event that includes a court dance, plots between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John, a contact joust, and of course, the daring and dashing Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Between the attractions and the theatrics, there truly is something for everyone at Sherwood. That’s why we chose Sherwood Forest for our annual Swordplay UTSA Alumni Retreat. We lovingly refer to ourselves as “the Fencers”.

The Fencers

We first started attending Texas Renaissance Festival back in 2008. Our group has changed a lot since then. Many of us have married and divorced. Despite the general upheaval, the core of our group that is still in Texas tries to get together once a year to carry on our Renaissance Festival tradition. We’ve been disdaining TRF. It’s far too big now, and too far away for day-trippers. Sherwood is practically next door, so off we went.

This year saw a good mix of campers and day travelers. The Austin-ites made our regular trek. One of our girls was able to come all the way from Denver. We even had a good smattering of little faces along for the ride.

In honor of our shared love of period clothing and fireside violin–I know, very specific–I put together a photography project of our time at Sherwood. Regretfully, I’m not in any of the pictures. Don’t worry. I had a great time behind the camera this year. Special thanks to Jeremy and Lidia for the use of their Canon Rebel T5i with EFS 55mm-250mm lens. Photos were edited in Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

For the purposes of privacy, I have left out pictures of the kids.

Photo Album

A minstrel at Sherwood Forrest in a tunic bearing the French colors of blue and yellow plays a guitar in front of the jousting arena to the delight of onlookers before the French and the English square off in one of the first scuffles of the day.
A minstrel on guitar. He wears the livery of the French, whose king stood with us and gave us the scoop on the Great Rondini.


The Court Dance

The Princess of Sherwood takes the arm of one of her ladies in a contra dance with the rest of the court.
The Princess of Sherwood dancing a contra dance (that seemed mostly accurate) with her ladies and gentlemen of the court.


One of the crown princes of Sherwood Forrest dances with a lady of the court at Sherwood Castle.
One of the crown princes dances at court. I can’t remember which one he is.


The Princess of Sherwood Forrest Festival enjoying the dance, clapping, singing and laughing with her subject. The Queen Mother looks on behind her. The Princess wears mostly period-accurate gown, wimple, and headband.
The princess enjoying the dancing and merriment.


The Queen Mother of King Richard looks on expectantly in her traditional yellow and purple gown and wimple as the court dances at Sherwood castle.
The Queen Mother looks on as if expecting something.


A band of merry minstrels perform for the court at Sherwood Forest.
Merry Minstrels perform for the court. I chose this one out of the other pictures of the minstrels I got because this is the only one I had that didn’t also include the bathroom sign.

Around the Park

The daily parade through the main roads of Sherwood came through after the dance. A little fella in a short tunic and beret cap carried the sign for Dublin Harpers.
After the dance, the parade came through the main thoroughfare. This little guy carried the sign for the Dublin Harpers, one of the many live music attractions at Sherwood.


A costumed goblin in realistic goblin makeup is part of the parade. He throws the heavy metal horns for the camera.
One of the best things about Sherwood Forest is the wide array of costumed performers, not to be outdone by the costumed patrons of Sherwood.


A very convincing vampire costumed patron of Sherwood posed for us by the castle. His wings were controlled by his arm movements. He unfolded them for the picture. I tried to make this particular image look like a still from Nosferatu, or one of Francis Ford Coppola's stills from Dracula.
I took some creative liberties with this one. The gentleman unfolded his wings for us just outside Sherwood castle after the parade.


Under the pergola outside Sherwood Castle, the core of the Fencers pose for a picture in the King and Queen's thrones.
From left to right: Lidia Plaza, Zarissa Cline, Jeremy Shoemaker, Kelsey Moore, Alicia Wright. Sherwood Forest Friends for life!


At Sherwood, Heather Terpstra as Lady Loki stands with her entourage for a picture in front of one of the many vendor shops.
Heather Terpstra made an appearance at Sherwood the weekend we attended. Her entourage includes Joffrey Baratheon, Twig the Wood Elf, Medieval Lady Loki (Heather), Ste-ven the Executioner and William MacKenzie the Younger. It was so nice meeting you, Heather! Follow her on Instagram at @another_lady_loki  !
The Great Rondini escaping the chains and manacles draped across him by a group of volunteers from the crowd that her hand chosen to be the meat shields taking his barbed jokes.
The Great Escape artist, Rondini, only moonlights as a master magician. In reality (according to the King of France) he’s a sixty-year-old bounty hunter. Does the man get any cooler?!


The Joust

A competitor in the joust astride his horse at Sherwood.
One of the joust competitors, the rider for the English, fires ups the crowd.


The competitor for Saxony (I think) fires up our side of the crowd at the joust of Sherwood.
The second rider, the rider for Saxony (I think), fired up our side of the crowd, prompting the outburst of “Huzzah Y’all!” that now encapsulates this state’s love of Renaissance Fairs and our own colloquialisms.


Our Herald for the joust amuses the crowd with tricks on horseback. He managed to jump up into the saddle with both feet. This one's an action shot, taken right before he stood up.
Our Herald amuses the crowd with horseback antics. I called this image “Lost Cause” because I had so much trouble with it during edits. It was fully blown out and I could never angle the sun correctly. I settled on this one, I admit.


The rider for the English barrels down on his opponent during the Joust at Sherwood.
Next came the full-contact joust. Check out one of the comments below to learn a little more about the joust!


The hand-to-hand combat of the joust, with Saxoy (I think) beating England into the ground with a huge mallet.
After the mounted portion of the joust, the opponents squared off for hand-to-hand combat. The gladiators did a good job on this one. Also, you can see there are differences in this composite. I used a different canvas texture, hoping to achieve the appearance that the image was old and had been deteriorating. This is one of the first I worked on, before I established a workflow and theme. I kept it this way because I liked being able to see my progress as I improved my workflow and balance in my composites.

As We Wended our Merry Way

Kelsey sitting in an oversized red chair at Sherwood while Jeremy and Zarissa shopped.
Kelsey Moore sitting in the Big Red Chair. Because why not?


A living statue in gold paint gives Zarissa a gentlemanly dip for the camera at Sherwood Forest.
Zarissa gave a dollar to the living statue, who apparently also read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, or at the very least saw her TED talk. You might say to yourself, “She did a good job on this one”, but I had to really rework the structure of this image because the camera’s ISO was not set for the distance I was shooting at, and quite a bit of extra stuff was going on behind them.


The Swordplay UTSA Alumni on a bridge at Sherwood Forest.
I went with a more earthy, foresty feel for this composite. You can see the veins of a leafy texture behind my friends. I reworked this image quite a bit, as it was one of my first. I went back to the image and added techniques I had used in later composites. From left to right: Zarissa Cline, Kelsey Moore, Lidia Plaza, Alicia Wright (behind Lidia) and Jeremy Shoemaker.
Tom the Blacksmith from Custom Iron Works heats up a piece of iron in his forge at Sherwood.
Tom at Custom Iron Works heats up a piece of iron that he is using. I suppose I should back up a bit. We searched that entire park for a corkscrew. There was a bottle of mead with our name on it back at camp that we couldn’t get into. Hence the corkscrew. Tom had never made a corkscrew before, so he decided to whip one up for us. According to Tom, he had never spiraled the metal before. This was all new for us. Blacksmithing iron has been a practice since the middle ages, and Tom uses those same practices to make everything from kitchen utensils to decorative hardware.


Jeremy holding his new corkscrew at Sherwood Forest. Thanks, Tom!
Here is the finished product. We were all proud of Tom for creating this piece. Just looking at it, you would never know he had never done that before. Jeremy took it back to camp to test, and we found it to not only be an excellent conversation piece, but fully functional. Jeremy went back the next day to thank Tom and buy some drawer handles to compensate Tom for the free corkscrew.


Undead faun at Sherwood Forest. The deer skull used for the mask is bleeding from the black eyesockets. The horns are tipped in blod. The photo is in black and white with spot colors of red for the blood and black and red fur. Amazing!
I like to leave my readers feeling comfortable, so here is an undead faun from Sherwood. I was incredibly adult as I stood there and shot this picture. I am actually really anxious around these kind of costumes. The mouth had been closed as he/she/it approached. As I took the picture, the maw slowly opened. A departure from the rest of the album, as this was shot on the second day with my iPhone 6s.

See You Next Year

I would like to thank the wonderful cast, crew, servers, costumed patrons, and performers of Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival for an unforgettable weekend retreat and another great UTSA Swordplay Alumni reunion! See you all next year!

3 Replies to “Photo Album: Sherwood Forest Renaissance Festival”

  1. I stumbled across your blog. I am one of the Knights pictured above.
    I feel the need to correct one of your opinions about the full contact not being violent enough to be the real thing.
    Jousting encompasses 500+ years so it depends on what period of jousting you are referring too.
    On a whole jousting was started out as a bit of a free for all but then became more formalized which is the period we draw from.
    Also your comment about the lyst being “too short” is wholly inaccurate. It’s about 250 ft which is plenty of rm for them to hit a good speed.
    They also “have their heads”. In one of your own pictures the knight is not holding the reins.
    Also you are watching performers and horses that are highly trained to joust.
    So the chaotic element is significantly reduced.
    Are we the perfect historical representation? No
    But the jousting is done authentically with the intention of breaking lances or unhorsing the other rider.

    1. Hello,

      I thank you for pointing out the inaccuracies of my post. In the interests of remaining completely transparent and open to criticism (as well as being woman enough to admit when I’ve messed up), I have corrected the article by removing the inaccurate description. I will leave your comment approved so that others can learn a little more about the joust. I apologize for any misconceptions I engendered and any inconvenience this may have caused.

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