GV Renaissance Festival brings students to the past


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Clemence Daniere, Staff Writer

This past weekend Grand Valley State University held its yearly, and much anticipated, renaissance fair. The grassy area around the clock tower was overrun by tents and people who share their love for the event. 

Merchants, entertainers and visitors gathered to immerse themselves in the renaissance era for just a few days. This event, which was held by the GVSU Renaissance Festival Club, was the 26th annual festival.

Throughout the club’s time, it has shrunk in size some years and grown in others, but the tradition of the festival has continued on despite attendance levels. This year, the club has about 20 active members, which allowed them to set up a sizable festival. 

Members of the club, merchants, entertainers and other event-goers were dressed up in renaissance clothing for the occasion. People sported armor, classic renaissance era dresses and corsets. Dressing the part is a big aspect of the renaissance festival and allows everyone to express themselves in a way they don’t usually get to on a day-to-day basis. 

“I am looking forward to the experience of being able to take on a different persona and put on a costume,” said Aaron Kumpula, a GVSU student and member of the Renaissance Festival Club. “It’s a cool way to immerse yourself in a different time period and it feels like you’re a part of something bigger.”

The merchant director of the club created a space for vendors to set up tents and sell merchandise related to the festival’s theme. Anything from clothing, to jewelry, to chainmail and leather goods were available for purchase. 

A museum was also set up which featured information about warriors from different time periods and locations around the world. Artifacts, such as swords and sickles, were put on display to educate visitors and emulate the weaponry that was used throughout the time periods. 

A merchandise tent, Oma’s Costume Closet, provided event-goers with clothing that fit in with the renaissance theme. Corsets, skirts, dresses and other accessories were available for purchase. 

Dark Goddess Leather Pleasures, a leatherworking and clothing merchant tent, was run by Diane Kowalski, a GVSU Alumni. Before her time as a merchant, she was involved in the Renaissance Festival Club from 1999 to 2003 as a student. After being involved in 23 fairs over the years, she has made her mark on the renaissance festival. 

“I stuck around and I help as a mentor or as a go-to person if they have questions or if they need anything,” Kowalski said. 

In addition to being a merchant, she has recently gotten involved with Her Majesty’s Royal Guard as a squire. This community goes through intense training to grow as a knight in a historically accurate way and put on shows as entertainment for attendees of the event. 

Marshal Hywel, a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Guard for 25 years and GVSU Alumni, was one of the original members of the GVSU Renaissance Festival Club. Now, he comes back to the festival to perform combat with fellow knights. 

Each knight is protected with a hand-crafted and uniquely molded armor, which they learn to build and shape themselves. They are then equipped with a sword and battle one another in the arena that was set up in the middle of the tents. Attendees watched the show as sparks flew when swords collided with one another. 

Before this is possible for knights however, they spend their time as a squire learning to fight, crafting their own armor, choosing a persona and a desired time period. 

“Part of their squirehood is making that armor, so they cold-steel hammer everything into place and just start building their armor on piece at a time painstakingly,” Hywel said. “It’s very customized to the person because if it doesn’t fit you exactly it hurts you very badly.”

Later in the day on Saturday, a knighting ceremony was held where a squire of eight years was officially knighted, which is an event that only happens every few years.

Other entertainment was present for the festival, such as musicians, storytellers, and some on campus clubs. The GVSU Shakespeare Club put on a performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Louis Armstrong Theatre, Haas Center for Performing Arts. 

An estimated 200 people attended the festival this year. High attendance rates like these are what allows the club to keep this tradition going from year to year. 

Students interested in joining the Renaissance Festival Club are always welcome to reach out to and attend the events they hold throughout the year.