Celebrating 36 Years of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 

The 36th Annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival returns this May to Covington Glen in Arrington, Tenn. Travel back to 16th Century England where the Village of Covington Glen comes alive with the bustle of a Renaissance Marketplace. Artisans from all over the country display their wares from silks to swords; from gems to jewels. Flavors, aromas and tastes of specialty foods and drinks greet the festival-goer. Hear Renaissance musicians and merrymakers voices echo through the trees.

The festival is held weekends in May and Memorial Day Monday from 10am to 6pm. The event has free parking and children under 5 are free. It is a cash only event once on-stite (with the exclusion of some vendors), but you can purchase tickets online in advance.

Festival admission also includes a visit to the Castle Gwynn gardens grounds.  

New this year is “Tea with the Queen.” Sit with the Queen and her court and share tea, pastries, tea sandwiches, and small deserts. Only a select few are invited to her Majesty’s private glen and garden, so make sure to RSVP in advance. This experience is perfect for all ages.

The Queen’s Tea takes place all festival days from 3:30-4:30 in the Queen’s Tea Glen. Advance ticket sales are required for this event. The Queen’s Tea ticket cost is separate from the cost of admission into the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Only 35 tickets will be sold daily and can be purchased in advance online. 

Theme Weekends 

May 7 – 8:   Opening Weekend

Hot n’ salty pretzels, right off the stick. Bring the family and celebrate the opening of the 36th year. 

May 14 – 15:   Artisan and Crafts Weekend

Travel through the marketplace for treasures and unique handcrafted items from around the globe. See demonstrations of talented artisans crafting their wares. Check out the Artisans & Activities page on their website for full list of all our artisan shops.

Fairy House / Hobbit Habitat Contest Weekend

To encourage creativity and the arts, a Fairy House / Hobbit Habitat Contest will be held on both days of the craft weekend. Winners will be determined each day (time and location TBA). All Fairy Houses and Hobbit Habitats must be constructed of natural materials and on a portable, sturdy base for table display and family-appropriate. Contest is open to two age groups: 4-14 years and 15 years and up. Rules and registrarion can be found on their website.

May 21 – 22:   Pirate Invasion Weekend

Huzzah! The hills are swarming with rascals and rogues as a crew of scuvry pirates invade the shire of Covington Glen. See the swashbuckling and sword-brandishing of pirates galore. Young Rascals and Pirates aged 12 and under can participate in the Children’s Pirate Costume Contest on both days of Pirate Invasion Weekend and can register on their website.

May 28 – 29 – 30:   Celtic Weekend

Addd a little Celtic flair to the Faire. Enjoy the fun as they honor those early Britons – men, wear your kilts!

Weekend Entertainment

Queen Elizabeth: Her Royal Highness Elizabeth Regina Gloriana will graces us with her annual Royal Visit to the shire. God Save The Queen!  (Rated G.)

The Royal Joust: The Free Lancers bring pure excitement and breathtaking action as armored Knights on horseback battle for supremacy on the Tournament Field. Three shows daily.  (Rated G.)

Knightwings Birds of Prey: Join Master Falconer Ash Cary for an amazing and educational birds of prey demonstration showcasing hawks, owls, and falcons. Hear about each species’ adaptations, their impact on the eco-system, and why we need to protect them, as well as a bit of the history of the sport of falconry and how we train our birds.  (Rated G.)

Paulo Garbanzo: Blending comedy and amazing juggling into a show of death-defying skill, Paolo’s supremacy over the laws of physics is not to be challenged!  (Rated PG.)

Oops! Comedy Knife Throwing Show: Paolo Garbonzo and Giacomo the Jester (of Empty Hats) join forces to hurl razor-sharp blades at each other, risking life and limb for the entertainment of their fans!  (Rated PG.)

Ik, the King of Trolls: Meet the King of the Trolls – talk with him, listen to his tales, and if you’re good he may even allow you to take a rare photo to prove that you have met with Royalty.  (Rated G.)

Faebles: See these magical winged creatures flit about the fairy garden and festival site.  (Rated G.)

Story time with Ik and the Faebles: Meet Ik, King of the Trolls, and the Faebles. Hear fairy tales told from the fairies’ point of view. Familiar and new tales told by Ik and performed by the Faebles.   (Rated G.)

Castle Visits: Castle visits (grounds and gardens) are available from 11am to 3pm each Festival Day (weather permitting). 

Axel the Sot: He’s back and better than ever! Straight from the Poop Deck, this seafaring minstrel is definitely Adult Comedy and NOT FOR CHILDREN. Bawdy songs, naughty jokes, toasts and stories to make you blush. Axel’s first 2 shows are PG; The last 2 shows are RATED R

Da Vinci Brothers Comedy Opera : Bob DaVinci takes his audiences on a hilarious ride as they become players in his wacky view of art, history, inventions, culture, and opera parodies.  (Rated PG.)

Empty Hats: Unplugged…but Wired. This band of talented musicians comes to our village to amaze audiences with their high-energy Celtic music, both traditional and original.  (Rated G.)

Giacomo’s Ballads: Giacomo of Empty Hats takes the stage by himself, to sing songs of love and romance.  (Rated G.)

Buckle & Swash: Comedy sword-fighting show! Where Captain Red and his first mate spin tales of pirates and their misadventures on the high sea. Come join the crew and become a part of pirate history. ARRRRRR…!  (Rated G.)

Robin Hood: Join Robin Hood and Maid Marian for magical storytelling, featuring audience members in starring roles. Heroes, villains, cheering, screaming, and hilarity ensue!  (Rated G.)

Rafferty the Piper: The sound of the Highland Pipes will fill the air of Covington Glen as Rafferty performs his unique piping skills.  (Rated G.)

Isaac Fawlkes, Magicial: Fawlkes’ blend of comedy and magic is perfect for the entire family. His first responsibility as an entertainer is to entertain the audience and make sure everybody has a good time. And when Isaac Fawlkes takes the stage, everybody does.  (Rated G.)

Queen’s Knighting Ceremony: This free activity is a chance for children of all ages to meet and be knighted Queen Elizabeth herself.  (Rated G.)

The Secret Commonwealth: Middle Tennessee’s popular Celtic band with original and traditional music and styles of American and European Folk music.  (Rated G)

Demetrius and Darren: Demetrius & Darren of Empty Hats put their own special spin on music to put a song in your heart. (Rated G.)

Tea with Lady Ettie: Do not let her looks deceive you – Lady Ettie is the unquestioned expert in Renaissance fashion and etiquette – just ask her! Her shows will enlighten and amuse any audience. LAST TWO WEEKENDS ONLY. (Rated G.)  

Royal Improv Comedy: Buckle & Swash team up with colorful characters from around Covington Glen, to entertain you with interactive side-splitting improv comedy. One show daily.  (Rated G.)

The Bardbarians: A ragtag band of musical mercenaries that will make you laugh AND cry as they enthusiastically butcher the songs you know and love.  (Rated G.)

Festival of Song: Join Her Majesty and the entertainers of the Covington Glen as they celebrate the end of our festival visit with songs and laughter.  (Rated G.)

For full daily schedule and more visit TNRENFEST.COM

The History of Castle Gwynn

The vision began in 1970 in a high school architecture class, when a senior sketched his dream house. His plans were unlike many of the others: a Medieval Castell, complete with a Great Room and detailed with such flourishes as a hooded fireplace.

Aware that he embarked on a long journey, and with the support of his parents, he began to seek a location for a dream house. In 1976, his inquiries led him to Triune where an older dreamer shared his vision. That’s when John Covington made it possible for Mike to purchase forty acres of land that included a “Castle hill approach.”

Detailed inspirations came from Mike’s time in Wales when he visited Castell Coche (a.k.a Red Castell) which became his prototype. Many fortifications like this were whitewashed in the Middle Ages to appear as one piece of stone and to prevent invasinos in the dark of night  – think of the Tower of London which is also known as the “White Tower – so he chose to make Castell Gwynn the White Castle. 

Craftmen, Kenneth Canaday and Master Mason, along with Mike found the perfect combination of expertise and imagination and brought the vision to reality. With his inspirations, the first tower was begun in 1980, with the sceond tower following in 1985.

The crowning glory of the living quarters is the first floor kitchen, which required two years of weekends to mold the 14,000 bricks into sixty brick arches. Tile maker, David Wright, highlighted the feat with his reproduction of the Castell Gwynn coat of arms, in hand-made tiles.

Guided by deft hands of electrician, Fran Paris, special care was taken to conceal modern conveniences within this period structure while keeping it as historically accurate as possible. 

One of the focal points of Castell Gwynn is the Great Room on the second floor, a magnificent room for entertaining and festivity. Under a 28’ vaulted ceiling, a balcony with a minstrel gallery leads into the area. The showcase of the second tower is the great hooded fireplace, drafted by Freeman and Canaday, aided by the computer engineering of Cumberland Stoneworks. First sketched in 1970, it is now an architect’s study in cut Indiana limestone.  With love and satisfaction, Mike fished the fireplace with Castell Gwynn coat of arms, which he personally designed.

In 1988, Mike married Jackie Harmon, and thus the first wedding at Castell Gwynn. Recently, she retired after +30 years of educating high school students, Jackie enjoys travel, gardening and coordinating Festival responsibilities.

In 2004, a copper-cover timber frame roof was constructed for the the first tower, while construction for the second tower and roof sections was underway. The frame was constructed by Spencer Turrentine and Brian Stevens. The copper-cover was fashioned by the exclusive coppersmith Leroy Shumake.  The second tower roof was lifted in 2007 and put in place by one of the largest cranes in Nashville. Connecting the two towers is brick and stone section constructed by The Canady Family. 

Repairs and resurfacing were needed after damage caused by I-840 construction. Spanning six months, Stover and Sons carefully resurfaced the entire castle exterior with breathtaking results. Worked in metal by Joe Brown, with leaded glass by Jim Hackett, new doors and windows were added to highlight and complete the bright exterior of Castell Gwynn.

Because of the I-840 construction, the Tennessee Renaissance Festival was forced in 1997 to relocate to an adjoining site across New Castle Road. A timber-framed covered bridge greets festival- goers, inviting them to the new hillside festival grounds. The showcase of new Covington Glen is a hammer beam structure, following a roof style typical of great medieval halls throughout Britain and Europe. Tennessee Renaissance Festival is the only festival that is held at a Castell residence.

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