Sterling Renaissance Festival

Sterling Renaissance Festival is a Renaissance Festival that operates in Sterling, New York. Since 1976, it runs for seven consecutive weekends through July and August and features music, comedy, and interactive theatre performances as well as the work of artisans and craftspeople.

Sterling Renaissance Festival
Crest above the entrance of the Sterling Renaissance Festival
GenreRenaissance fair
DatesJuly - August
Location(s)Sterling, New York
Attendance100,000 (average)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 45th festival to be cancelled in 2020; it was deferred to 2021.


The setting is the year 1585 in the fictional village of Warwick, which rambles across a wooded hillside and includes many permanent structures (some two-story) on the occasion of their annual festival. Queen Elizabeth is in attendance in the company of the members of her court, including various real-life historical figures, such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. These ladies and gentlemen of the court perform shows, such as the human chess match and Tea with the Queen, in addition to interacting with patrons. The entirety of village life is represented by the cast, known as the Wyldewood Players (formerly, the Bless-the-Mark Players). The cast of costumed actors portray all kinds of villagers; gypsies, pirates, washer-wenches and others. They stroll the grounds, improvising scenarios to entertain the patrons.

Costumed entertainers include Renaissance musicians, bagpipers, illusionists, jugglers, sword-swallowers, fortune-tellers, and comedy acts. Twice daily the performers join together in a parade through the Festival grounds, and the Festival closes each evening with a pub sing in which everyone is encouraged to sing along.

At the base of the west-facing hillside is the jousting field. Here, full-contact jousting takes place, as well as displays of archery and (on Highland weekend) Highland games. In addition, patrons can ride the war-horses of the jousters for a small fee.


Arts and craftsEdit

Like most Faires, the Sterling Renaissance Festival has a large number of artisans and craftspeople, such as glass-blowers, blacksmiths, bookbinders, and potters. Other vendors and wares include leather and costuming shops, weapons, custom footwear, walking sticks, musical instruments, jewelry, toys, and woodworking.


There are also a number of games of skill available for an additional fee, such as archery, axe-throwing, "Tomato Justice" (where participants pelt a man with ripe tomatoes), the Ladder of Truth, and the Pillow Fyte. Several human-powered rides are available.


Various foods are available, including such Faire staples as turkey legs and shish-kabobs, but also including vegetarian items like portobello mushroom sandwiches and fresh fruit. The Rose & Crown Tavern (renamed in 2010 from the "Bad Dog Tavern") serves alcohol, including mead, and has a selection of meat pies, bacon-wrapped scallops, and other foods. In the past, the Tavern has featured live entertainment.

Themed weekendsEdit

Each weekend has a formal theme that will often inform the storyline acted out by the townsfolk. Current and past themes include Family Appreciation Weekend (discount tickets for families). Marketplace Weekend (purchases from vendors earn free tickets), Ale Fest Weekend, Highland Fling (Scottish music and competitions), Pirate Invasion, Romance Weekend, and Fantasy Weekend.


The Wyldewood Players, the oldest full-time professional acting troupe of any Renaissance Festival, comprise The Queen, her court, and the Warwick villagers (barber-surgeon, washer wenches, mud beggars, gravedigger, etc.). Entertainments include The Queen's Tea, Her Majesty's Daily Diversion, Trial & Dunke, and a daily Publick Execution. The Players' creative director Gary Izzo has more than 30 years' experience with interactive theatre, including with Disney theme parks, and is the author of The Art of Play: The New Genre of Interactive Theatre (Heinemann Drama, 1997) and Acting Interactive Theatre: A Handbook (Pearson Education, 1998).

Other regular acts at the Fair include the following:

Patron participationEdit

Many Fair attendees come in costume ("garb"), and booths inside the grounds offer garb for sale or rent. Renaissance, fantasy, pirate, and steampunk are favorite themes. In 2008, for the first time, peace-tied period weapons were permitted.

Sterling has an active group of long-time season ticket-holders known as "Family of Faire", many of whom have developed their own characters and attend every weekend of the season.[1]


The Festival was founded in 1976 by Dennis Ouellette Sr., and later owned and operated by Gerald and Virginia Young for more than thirty years.[2]

In early 2008 the Fair was purchased by Doug Waterbury, who also owns an amusement park in Sylvan Beach and other entertainment venues in Central New York. Waterbury invested $2 million in the business. Several new stages were constructed and existing ones refurbished, and the number of performers was boosted for the 2008 season. Waterbury planned to use the site for additional events, and install a larger jousting theater which could also be used for outdoor concerts.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

Jamie Denbo, creator of Lifetime's American Princess,[4] is a former Sterling cast member.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A life more Medieval: Spending summers at the Sterling Renaissance Festival,"
  2. ^ "Sterling Renaissance Festival Prepares for 29th Season With Original Owners". The Italian Voice. May 5, 2005. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2009-05-26. Much has changed at the Renaissance Festival over the 29 years it has been open to the public, except for the ownership. Gerald and Virginia Young remain the constant force behind the success of the Festival and will open the Festival doors for yet another season on Saturday, July 2nd
  3. ^ Diana Louise Carter, "Sterling Renaissance Festival has renaissance of its own", Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 6, 2008
  4. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (April 24, 2018). "'American Princess': Georgia Flood To Topline Lifetime Series From Jenji Kohan & Jamie Denbo; Lucas Neff & 3 More Cast". Deadline.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 43°21′38″N 76°39′19″W / 43.360485°N 76.655271°W / 43.360485; -76.655271