Pirates storm Renaissance Fest

Pirate singing, fire breathing, horseback jousting, turkey leg eating and mayor knighting all will be part of this weekend's seventh annual spring Great Plains Renaissance Festival at Sedgwick County Park.

The festival, which this year is expected to draw 18,000 people, grows more popular each year — with attendees, with vendors and with performers.

"We have lots of new and exciting things going on this year, and we also have some of our returning favorites," said Richard Cathey, the festival's director. "And even the old acts we bring back always have a new show or a new twist on what they do."

Among the attractions at this year's festival, which re-creates the look and flavor of medieval times, are a giant pirate ship, which offers not only a pirate show but also tours.

The popular jousting show will feature three charging knights, and a new act called Kumpania Boleyn features Las Vegas-style fire-breathing fire jugglers.

Performers include the Musical Blades, a group that performs pirate songs and Celtic tunes, and Tribal Circus Rhapsody, a group of tightrope-walkers, trapeze artists and Cirque du Soleil-style acrobats.

A popular act called the Human Toy — a medieval harlequin doll/mime who stays completely silent and in-character through the show — will return this year.

The fair also will include the largest-to-date number of roving street performers as well as an all-time high number of merchandise and food vendors, Cathey said.

This year, the fair is introducing a costume contest for attendees. Although many people already come in costume, the contest will give people an incentive to get extra creative, Cathey said. Prizes will be given to the best dressed man, woman and child age 12 or younger.

"It's Halloween in April," he said. "It really helps people immerse into the escape they're looking for when they come to the festival."

Also at the festival, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer will be knighted by the festival's royal court, in recognition for his service and support of the community. The knighting will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Brewer will then preside over the afternoon joust.

The festival is helping families afford admission by continuing a popular program that offers free advance tickets for children 12 and under.

Cathey said he's also proud that adult ticket prices have remained unchanged over the last several years.

"It's getting tougher to do," he said. "But with the economy the way it is, we want to provide a great family value, where you can get a full day's entertainment for a great price."

If you go


What: An outdoor spring event that re-creates medieval times with performers, food and family activities

Where: Sedgwick County Park

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

How much: Tickets are $10 at the gate for adults or $8 if purchased online in advance at www.greatplainsrenfest.com.

Tickets for children age 12 and under are $3 at the gate or free in advance at ticket vendors such as Book-A-Holic stores, Agent Comics, and other stores. (A complete list is online.)

For more information, visit www.greatplainsrenfest.com.