Gainesville Goes Medieval

For two weekends each year, the clear blast of trumpets mingles with the laughter of children as the kingdom of Hoggetowne opens its gates. Performers in period garb sing and dance in the streets, while knights joust on horseback and magicians captivate the crowds. Tucked away in the enchanted forest of the Alachua County Fairgrounds in Gainesville, Fla., this medieval marketplace will come to life on Jan. 25-26 and Jan.31-Feb. 2.
Hoggetowne is home to more than 160 talented artisans from across the country who journey to the Faire to sell and demonstrate their wares, offering medieval crafts such as weaving, blacksmithing, leatherworking, wood carving and glass blowing. Fairgoers can browse through a selection of delicate medieval jewelry or glimpse into their future with a mystical fortune teller.
“Visitors should arrive early to take full advantage of the exciting medieval magic,” said Linda Piper, faire coordinator. “Each morning all the entertainers greet the Hoggetowne guests as the city gates open to this enchanted kingdom.”
The sound of applause echoes from the Faire’s eight stages, where the forgotten skills of full-flight falconry, gripping aerial acrobatics and old-world magic come to life. Jugglers, knife throwers and gypsy dancers add to the excitement as they fill the streets of Hoggetowne.
“Visitors should plan to spend the entire day enjoying Hoggetowne’s enticing blend of artwork, period music and medieval traditions,” Piper said. “People wait all year for this highly anticipated event.”
One of the Faire’s most popular attractions is the joust, where knights in full body armor battle on horseback. Children can meet the knights and their magnificent steeds, or they can watch the Living Chess Match, where medieval heroes show off their swordsmanship and battle the forces of evil.
This year’s theme is “The War of the Roses,” where you can meet the beautiful and fierce Margaret of Anjou and her arch enemy, Richard, Duke of York at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. The Tournament Field will host a living chess game where Margaret tries to surprise and capture Richard at Hoggetowne, but is thwarted by superior moves in a stunning show of combat entertainment.
Visitors can also engage in traditional medieval games of chance and skill. They can shoot arrows or hurl battle axes at targets, or they can navigate their way through a winding maze. Thrilling human-powered push rides, as well as camel and elephant rides, attract eager children and adventurous adults.
Children can also enjoy the Faire’s School Day on Friday, Jan. 31, in which thousands of students from Florida journey to Hoggetowne for a day of face painting, hair braiding and medieval crafts. General admission is half-price, and larger discounts are available to school groups that register in advance.
“It’s so great to be able to provide this educational opportunity to children who are learning about medieval times in their schools,” Piper said. “This is a chance for students to see the Middle Ages come to life.”
After roaming the streets of Hoggetowne and working up an appetite, both adults and children can enjoy a feast fit for a king at the food court. The tempting aromas of freshly baked pastries, blooming onions, sweet potato fries, giant turkey legs and succulent ribs attract scores of lords and ladies.
Produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire draws more than 55,000 guests each year. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Faire is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and costs $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 5 to17. The Faire is free for children under 5. School Day, Friday, Jan. 31, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and admission is half-price. Pets are not permitted. The Alachua County Fairgrounds is located east of Gainesville at 2900 NE 39th Ave. adjacent to Gainesville Regional Airport.