The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Behind the curtains of GV’s Renaissance Festival

GVL | Aida Dennis

On Oct. 7, the 27th annual Grand Valley State University Renaissance Festival occupied the Kirkhof Center lawn. Students, vendors and community members alike socialized and produced a flashback to the past amidst the modern campus with their medieval garb. 

Hannah Bekius serves as the president of the club and the site director for the event. She has been a part of the GVSU Renaissance Festival Club (GVren) since the Fall of 2020, and was thrilled to see another year of Renaissance tradition and festivities. The club had to halt putting on the fair due to COVID-19 and only just started hosting the event again last year.

Bekius’ first introduction to the GVSU Renaissance Festival took place in 2014 before she was a student when she was walking around campus with her mom. 

“I personally was drawn to the costume aspect of faires. I love to sew and was looking for a creative outlet. I also fell in love with historically inspired costumes,” Bekius said. 

Bekius then became involved with the organization when she came to GVSU. As GVren president, Bekius had her plate full, but she said she enjoyed it nonetheless. 

“My favorite part is getting to help orchestrate the event,” Bekius said. “I enjoy the planning and the prep. I also love getting to meet and work with new people.”

Bekius is not the only person who enjoys the set-up process of the faire. Nick Miller, a freshman at GVSU, was thrilled to be a part of the experience. He found the club during Campus Life Night, and it immediately struck his interest. Miller has been to the Michigan Renaissance Festival a few times, so the renaissance festival experience on campus was familiar to him. 

“Getting here to set up yesterday and getting to talk to the vendors and (see the) performances was so cool,” Miller said.

Miller plans to stick with the club throughout his time at GVSU and is excited for more years to come. 

The Renaissance Festival club, which was founded in 1995, dedicates nearly all of its meeting time to planning the faire. Just as soon as they celebrate the success of one year’s faire, it becomes time to start working on the next. Bekius said the organization has to first plan the dates of the event, then finer details such as theme, vendors and entertainment, aren’t planned until about the nine-month mark out from the event.

“The most difficult part is coordinating all the moving pieces,” Bekius said.

The festival requires not only students from the club to get it off the ground but also relies on being able to use the space on the lawn in front of Kirkhof Center. On top of that, vendors come from all over the state to participate in this event. Many offer unique commodities for purchase like armor, swords, jewelry and time period-accurate clothing.

Bekius said GVren also tries to collaborate with other student organizations on campus when it comes to the festival. Often, they have had the Shakespearean Club and the Folk Music Club take part in the event by putting on performances for fair-goers. 

However, those are not the only performances that are put on. Bards, professional storytellers, also entertained small crowds under tents. Her Majesty’s Royal Guard, a medieval-battle performing company, was also in attendance.

“The fights are halfway between wrestling and a duel,” said Robert Ufer, a performer for Her Majesty’s Royal Guard. “We have swords, hammers, axes- everything you can think of. We have people in full armor, but the weapons are blunted so we don’t die.” 

Despite the bluntness of the weapons, they are still made of metal to keep the realism of the battles alive. 

“Sparks fly, people are falling, people get hit hard; we’re not pulling punches,” Ufer said. “Whichever side gets the most points wins, with one grand battle at the end where everybody fights everybody.” 

Though it was only his second year attending this festival, Ufer said Her Majesty’s Royal Guard has been a part of the GVSU Renaissance Festival for years. 

Ufer said the people who started Her Majesty’s Royal Guard were GVSU alumni. The company is a mix of alumni and has GVSU connections, staying in contact with the current campus club that got them involved. 

The event itself has a high cost, but the club is well-prepared.

“It costs roughly between $6,50 to $8,000 to put on every year,” Bekius said. “We go through the student life funding for the vast majority of our expenses. We also fundraise to cover any remaining expense.” 

The festival is the only college or university renaissance faire put on in the whole state and is one of only a handful of fairs that are held in Michigan.

Additionally, Gvren’s engagement does not stop at the festival. Later in the school year, during the winter semester, GVren holds an event called the Duke’s Ball. The club learns dances from the Renaissance period and puts together presentations about a variety of topics including historical fashion, healthcare in the Renaissance and other medieval day-to-day subjects. Students interested in the organization can visit GVren’s page


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