The Illuminating Lens

Bay Area Renaissance Festival 2017 – Tampa, Florida

Renaissance festivals are popular all over the US and the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa, Florida has been a spring tradition for many years.  The festival has been held the last several years on the grounds of the Museum of Science and Industry which is across the street from the Tampa Campus of the University of South Florida.   This festival is held every Saturday and Sunday for 7 weeks in Feb-April each year.   Each weekend there is a different theme.    I went this weekend because this weekend you get 2 in 1, renaissance and steampunk, as this was Time Travelers weekend!   The Steampunk costume contest was added several years ago and it has grown tremendously.  Now there are 20-25 entrants in the costume contest and 2-3 times that many people in steampunk outfits out & about on the festival grounds.

Steampunk gentleman


If you are not familiar with Steampunk here is some info from Wikipedia on the genre:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.  Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Therefore, steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian.

Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or of the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt, and China Miéville.  Other examples of steampunk contain alternative-history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Steampunk Lady

The costumes are fantastical and imaginative.   Each contestant must tell a story about their character.    They are fun to photograph, too!

Steampunk Costume Contestants

After the Steampunk contest, I wandered back out to the remainder of the festival to enjoy the more traditional renaissance events & regalia.   I have never been disappointed!

Ye Ole Pirate!

This being the land of Gaspar the pirate,  we always have a plethora of pirates.   But then there are the renaissance type characters as well.

Royal Guardsman

The Bay Area Renaissance Festival also has the required jousting match which everyone loves to watch and cheer for.

The Sheriff – sets up the tournament

The audience is asked to support one knight vs the other and the tournament commences.

The Knight and his Charger!

The knights battle on horseback.

The Joust- they actually hit the shields with the lances!

And they fight on the ground.   All to the cheers & jeers of the audience!

A bit of swordplay

Besides the jousting there is a tremendous number of other events and shows going on throughout the day.  There is enough going on to keep you walking about the grounds for several hours.   There are also many food stands with food of the period such as turkey legs, roasted corn, scotch eggs and shepherds pie, to name just a few.   There are many “grog” establishments for those you wish to partake!  If you are interested in the costumery or anything that is remotely related to the Renaissance period there are many vendors to check out.   For the kids, there are rides and games of the period, none of which are electric or electronic.

Some of the many colorful things to shop for at the festival!

The best part of this whole event, though, is the people.   The work they put into their costumes and characters is astounding.   Many just do this for the fun of being part of the event and the opportunity to be someone else from a time that was much simpler in our history!

If you are in Central Florida I highly recommend a visit to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Tampa.   Please checkout their website for details on upcoming themed weekends as well as the events for future years. Also, I recommend that you purchase your tickets online as the lines at the ticket booth can be pretty long at times!

Please visit my gallery for these and other images from my day at this annual event!

That is all for now!


Lynn Wiezycki

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