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Dust off your chain mail, it's time for the Utah Renaissance Faire

SALT LAKE CITY — While dealing with the heavy demands of medical residency while living in Kansas, Utah native Richard Thurman stumbled upon an event that engulfed him in a stress-free world.

In place of white coats and scrubs he found embroidered dresses and chain mail armor, and it wasn't long before Thurman became enchanted with the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.

“It was kind of like going back in time to a different era,” he said. “it was just captivating: the music, the entertainers, the setting. … It was a stressful time for me, and it seemed like a great escape.”

When Thurman eventually returned home to Utah, where he works as an emergency physician at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, he wished to keep the Renaissance spirit alive. He started the nonprofit Utah Valley Fine Arts Council to promote the arts and help get the Utah Renaissance Faire off the ground. The event is now in its sixth year, and will take place Aug. 25 and 26 at Thanksgiving Point.

When the inaugural Renaissance Faire kicked off at Mt. Timpanogos Park in 2012, it brought the Renaissance era to life with singers, magicians and dancers. Despite its success, there was one glaring omission that was brought up by a 5-year-old boy.

Thurman, who serves as executive director for the Faire, recalled overhearing the boy tell his father that while he had enjoyed the event, “It’s really not a Renaissance fair without horses, right?”

No horses also meant no jousting tournaments. This prompted a move to Thanksgiving Point, where knights were permitted to battle and showcase their prowess. Heading this effort at the Faire is world jousting champion Charlie Andrews and his Knights of Mayhem. The troupe proved its dedication to the art of jousting when bad weather struck the Faire in its second year. Undeterred, the knights continued their heavy-armor combat in a snowstorm, Thurman said.

If there’s anything Thurman has learned in putting together the Faire, it’s that he need only look to his backyard for talent. Andrews, an Eagle Mountain native, is just one example of the local talent on which the Faire capitalizes. Even though this year’s event is bringing in a few out-of-state — and out-of-country — acts, one of the primary goals is to showcase local artists and entertainers.

New to this year’s Faire is the Vikings of Utah, a re-enactment group that re-creates the history of the Viking era. The group will display a Viking village that features a 45-foot Viking ship, according to Thurman.

Another highlight Thurman eagerly awaits is the Faire’s village of local artisans, complete with stained glass demonstrations, spinning, weaving and other art forms.

“We’re basically an educational fair,” said Thurman. “We have a whole artisan village every year, and we open it up to the schoolkids on Friday. We have busloads of schoolkids that come in at a vastly reduced price, and then they can bounce back for free. I think we had 2,500 schoolkids last year. … That’s kind of the emphasis, to make this educational, both for the public and for the school districts at a reasonable price.”

There’s something for everyone at the Faire, and a general admission ticket of $15 — with discounts available for seniors, students and children — takes people on a journey filled with jousting, magic, animal shows, petting zoos, art and live medieval music.

Music this year will be provided by a number of acts, including Salt Lake City based Kairo by Night, a medieval folk band from Belarus called Stary Olsa, as well as the Faire debut of the Harp Twins, a duo that has developed a strong social media following.

Above all, the Faire’s greatest strength — aside from the physical prowess of the jousters — is its ability to highlight present day talent in Utah while simultaneously bringing to life the culture of an era long past.

“(The Faire) gives a chance for Utahns to understand more about the Renaissance era: the arts, music and culture,” Thurman said. “And it kind of takes you back to a time and past when chivalry was the rule and civility — something that we’re sometimes missing in our present world. It’s a magical event.”

If you go …

What: Utah Renaissance Faire

When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25-26, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Where: Electric Park at Thanksgiving Point, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi

How much: General admission, $15; students and seniors, $12; children ages 6-11, $8; children 5 and under, free