Silver Sage Renaissance Festival to hold inaugural event this weekend

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Time to dress up, or not, and have fun in the past. 

The inaugural weekend for the Silver Sage Renaissance Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at Finney County's Wildwood Park, southwest of Garden City.

It's is located at 293 Wilderness Drive.

Silver Sage co-founder Jacque Swartout said the festival is a rebranding and relocating of the Scott City Renaissance Festival, which she and co-founder Melissa Jasnosh were asked to help start as both of them grew up attending Renaissance festivals. 

Swartout grew up attending and later working at the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in California and Jasnosh is part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreation group all around the world that spawned off of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

Their plan originally wasn't to be overly involved, they were going to be in the background and be supportive, however that changed after the first year, Swartout said. 

"It was successful, but we realized we needed to change the culture of the festival a little bit in order to make it more regional and less city specific," she said. "So, we ended up becoming the main brains behind it and rebranding it the Silver Sage to make it inclusive to everyone in western Kansas."

Jasnosh said their shared background in Renaissance fairs made them want to provide something "authentic and entertaining" to the area. 

"We wanted to bring something to western Kansas that isn't out here, that you don't have to travel five hours to get to, that's unique and fun and cultural informative and just a good time," she said. 

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Swartout said they relocated to Garden City because the culture of the city is more congruent with the festival as they hope to grow it every year and in order to grow it they need three things: location, community support and community culture. 

"Garden City really has that, it's got a very supportive community, there's huge community involvement in multiple levels with Art in the Park and Fall Fest," she said. "That's the kind of stuff that we needed in order for this event to build."

Additionally, Garden City is larger and more well known, Jasnosh said. 

"It's a bigger town in western Kansas that more people are aware of and know the location of, which is helpful," she said. "Plus, they have bigger space for us to hold this that's not hard to find." 

Swartout said the event is an "inclusive, empowering environment where people can learn techniques that haven't been used in a while."

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a negative of the past year and a half, it has gotten people interested in things like making breads, blacksmithing, etc., Swartout said. 

"This is the prime time to bring this kind of festival to the area because there's a lot of people out there who have some pretty unique skillsets," she said.

Swartout said while they will be showcasing older skills and history, they are also including a bit of fantasy and whimsy into the festival. 

"We want to make certain we get, maybe you're not too interested in the historical aspect, but you can always throw the fantasy into it," she said. "If you want to come as a pixie or an elf or a fairy, knock your socks off, just enjoy it and just have fun."

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She hopes the event helps people heal from the pandemic. 

"Melissa and I, we have worked so hard and the city has been so amazing, that while we have such a limited budget we insisted on making this a free event this year," she said. "There's a lot of people that need to heal and there's a lot of trauma, and people need to have an opportunity to come together and try to start healing. We figured this would be a good way to do it."

Jasnosh agreed, saying that the event is a place to let loose and have fun and to be "weird and crazy and meet other weird crazy people and just enjoy being outside with other people."  

Swartout said what she likes about the festival is seeing the creativity and skill of others. 

"Seeing someone turn a piece of metal into a sword or a dagger and then have them explain this is a dagger that represents what might have been used on a 17th century pirate ship, that's cool," she said. "They've not only learned the metallurgy; they've learned the blacksmithing and they've learned the style and design. That's exquisite skill. I love watching these artisans create things."

Jasnosh loves the whimsy. 

"It's watching people let loose and be free and allow themselves to open their minds and think of different ways of doing things or different characters that they can be and allowing themselves to let loose," she said. "That's the fun for me in a Ren. Fair."

Part of a Renaissance festival is about learning about the past, Jasnosh said. 

"It's learning about who we are and where we've come from and how things have happened," she said. "But the whole thing with the Renaissance part of the Renaissance Festival is that the Renaissance happened at different times in different places. The Italian Renaissance started in the 1400s, but that was the Italian Renaissance, there was a German Renaissance and there were a bunch of different ones that, again, just a vast array of time and space and culture."

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The Renaissance was, literally, the great enlightenment, Swartout said. 

"It was the time where people could start questioning their place in the universe, whereas before they were under the very oppressive dogma of a religious patriarchy," she said. "Now they're allowed to be a little more creative and go 'hmm, what's going on and where do I fit? Who are these other people that I didn't realize existed?' All these things are coming into question."

The time period wasn't perfect, no time was perfect, but it was a revolutionary time, she said.

"If you think of it from a historical point of view, it was the first time in English history where they had any kind of female monarch and it was one of the most stable times in European history," she said. "It was led by years and years of relative peace."

That being said, the Silver Sage Renaissance Festival does not focus specifically on the English Renaissance and is not focused on Europe, Swartout said.   

"You can be Aztec, you can be Mayan, you could be South African, whatever you want," she said.

A lot of is planned for the festival, Swartout said. Members of the SCA will be in attendance dressed up and in period encampments.

"The SCA's a big deal and they come in with, they're very historically accurate. Ren. Faire's tend to be, they can go a little off the history or ... but SCA tends to be very historically accurate," she said.

Also a group of people representing the Vikings are coming in with their own encampment like the SCA, but they're culture specific, a group of Roma are coming and will have folk songs to share and they will have their own encampment as well, Swartout said. 

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There will also be a man who puts on an Irish roadshow where he lays on a bed of nails, walks on glass, etc and a puppeteer who trained out of New York will come in and perform a show. 

In addition to the entertainers and the period encampments there will be vendors and a Kids Kingdom, Jasnosh said. It's a place for families to come and do child centric things.

"We're going to have dragon races, we're going to have different games like jousting and javelin throwing and things like that that the kids can physically do that kind of take them back as well, but also bring some fun and some whimsy into it," she said.

Other activities there include a raffles, the puppet show, coloring and an obstacle course, Jasnosh said. 

"There's just so many different fun things for the kids to do to be active and also have a lot of fun," she said. 

There will also be an adults only area at the festival, Swartout said. 

"It's only in one section, and it's going to be identified as 18 and older, there will be markings all the way around it ... But the rest of the area is very, very kids friendly," she said. "It's kid friendly too, it's just my version of kid friendly and your version of kid friendly might be different, so that's what this is intended for." 

Food vendors will be at the festival but attendees are welcome to bring their own food and beverages and to basically have a picnic, Swartout said. 

"If you have a beach umbrella, you can unload it and stick it in the ground and hang out with us," she said.