Hear ye, hear ye! Gather round mine words and, pray tell, take note: ye olde arte of chivalry is not dead yet! The knights have come to town!
7 miles west on Route 60, a great and peculiar dream came to life for a colorful duo with a rich history of Renaissance faire involvement. Taso Stavrakis (pictured above with Tom Savini), an American film and television star, jouster, stunt performer, and dabbler of many arts, and Dawn Kieninger, a leather worker and owner of New Pterodactyl Leather, set out to turn their vast piece of West Virginia property into an Old World inspired community, complete with activities, artisans, shops, food, entertainment, and of course jousting. Their ideals of grassroots styled operations rather than a corporate-run business moved them to craft an entity of their own. The inspiration for their multi-faceted attraction came from taking the best of what they’ve learned from their many years of working in Renaissance faires and then synthesizing and tailoring it to make a perfect fit just outside the small, eclectic town of Lewisburg.
Although completion of the project will take much time, a jousting arena has already been constructed. Many professional jousters have made their way to the Lewisburg area to utilize the space for practicing in between shows and Renaissance faires, including Taso’s son, Gus, who has also been working hard to help with the family-run operation. Construction on a few other buildings is also underway, some sporting timber framing and straw bale walls and some modeled after crenellated castle structures. Their aim is to develop a historically inspired, village that can house different shops, temporary artisans, or even permanent artisan workshops, like Dawn’s leather working business.
The project is ever-growing; their goal is to incorporate as many local influences as possible and to create activities for every season so that they can accommodate the public year-round. In addition to the upcoming village and arena, Taso and Dawn plan to offer trail rides with their numerous horses, camping and RV hookup spaces, and many other amenities/activities. The property is currently a functioning farm that provides fresh produce to local restaurants, and this local business-to-business interaction and community showcasing is exactly what they hope to emphasize on their property as well so they can weave a unique experience for visitors that highlights the best of what our area has to offer. They wish for the possibilities to be endless and the place to never be empty; it is their hope that people will always be coming and going and that there will always be new activities for them to experience.
With a full agenda, much work ahead, and many other ideas brewing, everything is in its early stages and will take time to complete. So if your anticipation is more than you can handle, you can get involved and help bring the project to fruition. Taso and Dawn will be seeking hired help for construction and will gladly accept volunteers for different aspects of the operation. If you find yourself insatiably excited and want to be a part of the process, feel that you have a talent or skill that you could offer, curious to see or learn more about the jousters or the existing arena, or if you just want general information, please contact Gus Stavrakis at (304) 992-5556. They welcome you to reach out and assist in bringing ideas to life.
Remember, the more help that goes into the project, the sooner to completion it will be, and each aspect will be popping up, one by one. So get involved and help make their dreams a reality so that you (and the rest of the community) can take a step back in time and enjoy the wonders of this ever-growing adventure.
– Jennifer Sprouse, LBSPY 56 (August 25-September 29, 2014)