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Renaissance Fest prepares for 5th season

Fun and Fantasy right here in the Greenbrier Valley!

By Matt Young

Hear ye, hear ye! Lords and ladies, the time of the 2023 West Virginia Renaissance Festival is nigh at hand! 

The West Virginia Renaissance Festival kicks off the 2023 season on Saturday, June 3. Now in its sixth year, the Festival provides a month of family-friendly entertainment to the Greenbrier Valley. From theatre, live music and comedy shows – to jousting demonstrations, equestrian performances and scotch eggs – the Renaissance Festival brings the Golden Age of history and fantasy to life in the hills and hollers of West Virginia! 

And what will the theme of this year’s Renaissance Festival be? (Drum roll and trumpets sound…)

Why, Robin Hood, of course!

For owners Dawn Kieninger and Taso Stavrakis, the festival represents the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. After meeting at a Renaissance Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where Dawn was making leather and Taso was performing in the joust show, the couple set out to fulfill their ambitions of owning a festival of their own. 

As a founding member of the Hanlon-Lees Action Theatre, as well as serving as a Hollywood stunt performer, actor, and special effects coordinator on such projects as “Day of the Dead,” “Creepshow 2,” “The Mask of Zorro,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Walking Dead,” Taso’s transition into the world of medieval folklore makes perfect sense. What is less obvious, however, is why he decided to build that world in the heart of the Mountain State. 

“Mostly, it was luck,” Taso shared with us. “I grew up in Pittsburgh, not that far from here. I’ve traveled around the world, and I keep coming back to this – I like the mountains. I like the rivers. I like the rocks – and Pennsylvania was too expensive. So, in the back of my mind, when it was time to settle down, I always thought of West Virginia.”

Taso explained that convincing Dawn, a Wisconsin-native, to build a life in West Virginia was easier than he’d anticipated, saying, “I told her I had my heart set on West Virginia, and she said, ‘Me too!’” 

All your favorites from years past will be back in 2023. The Jousting Knights, Equestrian Chaos, the Theatre of Fools, the Knotty Nauticals, and many others will be on-hand to provide hours of medieval entertainment. Joining the musical lineup this year is local favorite, Patrick O’Flaherty, who is recognized as one of the world’s best players of the Irish mandolin.

“We [also] have Cast in Bronze with a whole new type of entertainment,” Kieninger said, before explaining that Cast is Bronze is a musical act specializing in the playing of the carillon, a 4,000 pound percussion instrument that consists of bronze bells struck with hammers.

In addition to the new musical acts, Stavrakis hinted at the possibility of dragons, noting that only the bravest of souls will have the courage to challenge the beast!

“We try to have new stuff every year,” Stavrakis said. “We have a bunch of new acts. If any from last year aren’t back, they will be again in the future. A lot of the acts rotate in and out.”

For the souvenir collector, there is no better place to browse the most authentic items available than at the Renaissance Festival. 

“We have armor, and swords, and everything you would expect at a medieval-themed fair,” Stavrakis said. “We have wooden swords and shields for the kids, and we have real swords for adults, and bows and arrows.”

Artisans and souvenir vendors will include Wyrd Armouries, Mountain Rain Forge, American Highlander, Blackberry Botanicals, New Pterodactyl Leather, Celestial Cycles, Starfire Swords, King Richard’s Flowers, O’Sullivan’s Fur Shack, and more from all around the world. 

Also new for 2023 will be a “coin mint” demonstration.

“They’ll demonstrate how coins are struck with dyes,” Kieninger said. “They’ll also make pendants. Customers can pick what they want, and they’ll make it while they watch.” 

Other activities include unicorn and warhorse rides, archery, ax, knife and star throwing, test of strength, Castle Escape Room, wooden maze, darts, Jacob’s Ladder and catapulting frogs. 

“So what can you expect – you walk in the door, and there’s immediately music playing, and the smell of food,” Taso added. “There’s great food.”

In addition to great food, there is a wide variety of beverage options to wet your whistle, and quench your thirst. Vendors for 2022 include Hawk Knob Cider, Devil’s Backbone Ale, Mountain Dragon Mazery, The Pub, Tudor Tower, Cloisters, Lakeside Tavern, Friar Tuck’s Pantry, Guy’s Dogs, Moonstruck Maple (who will be selling coffee, maple syrup, and cotton candy), and many more. 

“We’re going to have a coffee roaster demonstrating coffee roasting,” Kieninger said. “That’s Mountain Table, from Renick. I like bringing out our local farm-to-table businesses, like Swift Level (Meats, from Lewisburg), and others.”

“We’ve been doing a West Virginia beer tasting on the third weekend,” Kieninger added. “I think we’re going to follow that up this year with a West Virginia wine tasting on the fourth weekend.”

The West Virginia Renaissance Festival is open every Saturday and Sunday in June, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, and $8 for children ages 6 – 12. Children under six are admitted free, and on-site parking is included with admission. 

For more information, including a full list of performers, vendors and activities, or to purchase tickets, visit 

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Matthew Young has been a resident of Lewisburg, WV since December 2019. Prior to arriving in West Virginia, Matthew resided in the Philadelphia area, where his reporting, commentary, and editorials have been featured in numerous local and regional publications. Previously, he has served as a scriptwriter and consultant for television, radio, and various other short-form digital-media platforms, both within the United States and internationally. Since moving to the Mountain State, Matthew spent eighteen months as senior writer/managing editor for the West Virginia Daily News and is currently an active journalist with the West Virginia Press Association.