The 37th annual Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) kicked off Saturday morning in the southern U.S. city of Magnolia with participation of more than 30,000 visitors.
The 2011 TRF, taking place some 100 km north of Houston, is the country's largest and most acclaimed Renaissance theme gala where sights, sounds and tastes of the 16th Century come alive for eight weekends.
The festival started with a Bavarian celebration, where festival-goers could drink beers, learn Polka dance and taste typical European food.
The New Market Village, an area covering 243,000 square meters, was transformed into a Rhineland of food, beverages, artworks, crafts as well as games and human-powered rides.
Visitors strolled down the shaded cobblestone pathways, interacting with jugglers, minstrels and fortunetellers, or wandered in the shops filled with pottery, woodcarvings, jewelry and other treasures.
Rose gardens and maypoles enhanced festivity for the visitors as they roamed through the meadows and enjoyed the non-stop entertainment of more than 200 daily shows.
Gina Rotolo, director of Marketing and Media Relations of the event, said the festival last year entertained over 450,000 guests with nearly 500 costumed performers on 17 stages and 340 shops.
This year, the festival will be held on Saturdays, Sundays and the Thanksgiving Friday. There will be a series of activities: Oktoberfest, A Thousand and One Dreams, Pirate Adventure, All-Hallows Eve, Roman Bacchanal, Highland Fling and Barbarian Invasion. It will end with a three-day Celtic Christmas celebration and a traditional Royal Fireworks display on Nov. 27.
Rotolo said the festival has also been held to welcome children on their first school days since 2005. On these days, the festival is designed to be age appropriate, educational as well as entertaining and has been a smashing success.
Over the last three years, the annual "School Days" visitors have more than doubled since the inaugural year. More than 30,000 students, teachers and chaperones come to enjoy the festival every year.