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Hoggetown_IMG_1133_copyRevelers join in the daily Hoggetowne opening, greeting visitors with music, flare and pageantry.

GAINESVILLE – The 26th Annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire sent visitors on a whirlwind adventure, ablaze with horses, knights, magic and brew, at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Jan. 28, and Sunday, Jan. 29.

“People come to get out of their every day hustle and bustle, come into this fantasy world and have fun with all there is to do here,” Linda Piper, Events Coordinator for the City of Gainesville, said.

Piper has been the Events Coordinator of Hoggetowne for 18 years and strives every year to push the envelope and attract more and more visitors through social media outlets, like Facebook, and through Hoggetowne’s dedicated sponsorship. This year she expects a turnout of over 50,000 guests, already coming close to her estimate with 12,000 visitors Saturday and 9,500 visitors on Sunday.

Piper encourages visitors who come, to plan to spend the whole day, in order to see every event, shop and game Hoggetowne has to offer.

Hoggetowne’s 10 a.m. start has the whole medieval group, consisting of over 160 people, greet visitors at the towering castle-arch entrance. From then on, the fairgrounds are filled with knights on horses, families enjoying pony, elephant and camel rides, row-to-row shops of jewelry and other medieval wares, and countless magic, music, and jousting shows.

“I enjoy the camaraderie, companionship and the family one builds going around from fair to fair. It’s [the medieval circuit] a great life and here is where it all begins,” said Sara Dunlap, merchant at Hoggetowne for 26 years.

Dunlap, London-born and current resident of Middleburg, Fla., follows the medieval circuit to run her Ladye Fayre Dolls and Puppets shop, where she sells self-made porcelain dolls, clay puppets and dragon sculptures to fair goers.

Hoggetowne not only acts as an outlet for companionship, like Dunlap and many other merchants enjoy, but also as an outlet for immense creativity and passion for medieval art.

“The King [King Arthur of Hoggetowne] gave me the Best Merchant Award in 2009, for having the most medieval looking booth, with my 13-foot-high stone tower I made out of polyurethane foam, for an authentic look,” said Jim Oliver, merchant of Avatar Staffs and Wands shop.

Oliver, who has been a professional staff and wand maker for eight years, is a more recent addition to the Hoggetowne Faire, setting up shop here four years ago.

He concentrates on staff and wand-making the majority of the day at Hoggetowne, but also enjoys the company of those who share the same passion for medieval times.

“At night I hang around with the gypsies around the fire, singing and playing music with them,” said Oliver.

Hoggetowne is something you won’t see in everyday life around most communities. People from all over the nation attend every year to take part in something a little less ordinary and strive for the extraordinary, with medieval dress, demeanor and lifestyle.

Gracie Randbow, a teenager from Lake Butler, Fla., has come to Hoggetowne every year since she was one year old. To Randbow, Hoggetowne is a sense of comfort and excitement, close to her birthday in mid-February.

“I dress up every year I can. Some years it is muddy here, so I’ll try and go with the boots and leggings look, but otherwise I go with a dress,” said Randbow.

Randbow dresses up this year in a vintage, white lace and chiffon style dress, with a stone pendent hanging from her neck, something she finds simple in this “big hodgepodge of pretty colors and bold people.”

For other visitors, Hoggetowne is a place where they can find friendly faces and make new acquaintances throughout the medieval excitement.

This makes the fourth consecutive year that Ocala resident Clarice Kentwood has come to Hoggetowne for her favorite event, the Living Chessboard match, and most importantly to raise awareness for her cancer cause, “Hats For Happiness.”

“I bring my dog, JeZibel, with me every year and this big white dog attracts a lot of attention, so that gives me the opportunity to talk about Hats For Happiness to anyone who will listen,” said Kentwood.

Kentwood says she believes Hoggetowne is an “amazing” place, where she can find some of the friendliest people around and seek them out for her cause.

Over Hoggetowne’s 26 years of existence in the Gainesville area, the authenticity of the medieval times never ceases to diminish.

Steven Harrett, “Baron” under the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), says when the SCA founded the fair, he and others under the society have come every year to help keep the passion alive in this recreation of medieval times. Harrett hosts sparring matches, in which visitors can participate, and seeks to teach fair goers about sparring, the weaponry, and the need for a truly authentic medieval experience.

The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire has events for all ages and will continue this weekend, starting Friday, Feb. 3, through Sunday, Feb. 5. Admission is $7 for ages 5-17 and $14 for adults. Faire hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Friday.

Friday is “School Day,” where children from many schools come to learn about the medieval history. All people can attend Friday and admission will be half-price.

For more information, call the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs at 352-334-ARTS or visit www.gvlculturalaffairs.org.