Activities

Honokaʻa’s first Renaissance Faire draws large crowds donned in medieval costumes

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Honoka‘a traded its Western ways for medieval magic Saturday for the town’s first Renaissance Faire, with axe throwing, opera singing, sword demonstrations, fire dancing and thirst-quenching mead.

The organizers weren’t sure what to expect, but a surprisingly large crowd of an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people — many donning costumes from the Middle Ages — flocked to the small northern town on the Big Island for some good old-fashioned fun.

Revelers had a great time at the first Honokaʻa Renaissance Faire on Saturday. Photo Credit: Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now

And Honokaʻa delivered. Bagpipes wailed as dancers did the Irish Jig on the stage of the Honokaʻa Union Hall, which was bathed in gold. Other eclectic activities during the all-day affair, hosted by the Honoka‘a Business Association, included short plays, “Dungeons and Dragons” games, forges to heat metal, face painting, Tarot card readings and a tomato throw.

Adults could partake in mead, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey mixed with water that has been produced since ancient times.

A tomato toss was among the activties at the first Honokaʻa Renaissance Festival. Photo Credit: Nathan Christophel/Big island Now

Merchants also peddled their wares throughout the land as queens, kings, archers, wizards, fairies and other lords and ladies — including little lads and lassies — enjoying the festivities. There were even a few dragons if you looked hard enough.

“We were totally blown away by the turnout and depth of engagement — the costumes, the artistry, the performances on stage and off, the smiles and the spirit of our community,” said Krista Graves, a co-chairwoman for the event. “It completely took on a life of its own. It was magic, and everyone who showed up — the volunteers, the performers, the vendors and the guests — all made that happen.”

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The idea for the Renaissance Faire came from Graves’ 15-year-old son who had become fascinated with the Renaissance period while studying it at Keystone Waldorf Homeschool in Honoka‘a. 

Graves said she thought the timing for such a jovial event could not be better with the “darkness of the past few years” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was right. The crowds were so large that nary a parking spot was left in the town of only 2,700, with vehicles lined for more than a mile on Honoka‘a-Waipi‘o Road.

Volunteer Jaymie Sanchez, who worked the main information booth, said the attendees were enjoying themselves: “They’re coming up to us and they’re like, ‘This is amazing. I love this. Even they’re surprised with the turnout.”

The local shopkeepers along Māmane Street also embraced the Renaissance theme. A great quest sponsored by The Friends of the Libraries of Hāmākua tested the cunning and cleverness of those who took part.

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Volunteer Daniel Lambert, decked out in a crown his boss gave to him from the iconic self-expression Burning Man event in Nevada, slept at the union hall the night before with his girlfriend Mallion, also a volunteer.

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people attended the first Honoka‘a Renaissance Faire on Saturday at the Honoka‘a Union Hall. Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now.

Lambert said the Renaissance Faire was a good fit for Honoka‘a.

“We’ve got a lot of interesting characters here, so that helps,” he said. “It’s just something new and fun to do.”

Lambert loved that so many people dressed up in medieval costumes. There also were enough pointy ears that any elf or fairy would have felt right at home.

People came from near and far to step back in time.

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“We’ve got people from all over the island. I’ve talked to people from Puna, South Point, Waikōloa, Hilo side. I mean, just the entire island,” said Sanchez, the information booth volunteer. “We’ve got tourists who have come in. You know, they hit Honoka‘a and they see everything and they come in. So, yeah, it’s just been amazing.”

Volunteers, including Jaymie Sanchez, right, work at the main information booth Saturday during the first Honoka‘a Renaissance Faire at the Honoka‘a Union Hall. Photo Credit: Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now

Brett McCardle joked that his favorite part of the day was people telling him they found him. He was dressed up in the familiar red-and-white striped shirt and hat worn by Waldo from “Where’s Waldo?”

Slideshow photos by Nathan Christophel of Big Island Now.

“I’ve also enjoyed all the performances,” McCardle said. “I liked the tap dancing, the River Dance kind of thing. I do like the bagpipe, so this is kind of a special spot for special things to see.”

He’s been to three other Renaissance festivals on the mainland and said Honoka‘a’s event, while smaller than the others he’s attended, was just as cool.

“I think it’s been awesome,” McCardle said. “It’s so nice to see all these people excited about this kind of lifestyle and these kinds of costumes and getting into it and having fun. It’s just like Halloween. For anybody who likes Halloween, this is another Halloween, another fantasy experience they get to live.”

Bryce Pierson said it was cool to see people turn out from all over the island: “I’m running into people from all corners of the island I’ve known — like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you in 10 years.’ So it’s nice knowing that everyone’s coming here. This is the thing to do this weekend.”

He said the faire was great and should definitely return. The Honoka‘a Business Association, the volunteers who helped put on the festival and partner organizations seem more than willing to oblige.

Graves, the co-organizer, said; “There’s plenty of excitement already brewing for next year.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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