Knights and faeries roman the woods of Sparta

Renaissance Fair returns for second year

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  • Pirates attending the Sparta Renaissance Festival try their hand at archery on Saturday, September 15, 2018. Photos by mandy Coriston

  • The Crow's Nest "Karnevil" featured pirates performing mind-boggling stunts of human endurance at the Sparta Renaissance Festival

  • JR the Ax-man and his partner Death

  • An ent and a minstrel take a stroll through the Sparta Renaissance Festival

  • The Sparta Renaissance Festival offered squire training for young children. The instructors included the Blue Faery, an elf, and a royal squire.

  • A fire-eating faery performs

  • The Hawk Guild at the Sparta Renaissance Festival, Saturday, September 15, 2018.

  • King James (James Kimball), property owner and founder of the Sparta Renaissance Festival, took a moment to strike a royal pose

  • King James, Queen Misha, and their royal court look on while challengers engage in swordplay

by Mandy Coriston

— Last year, James Kimball, the owner of the Camp Sacajawea property on White Lake Road in Sparta, had a crazy idea. He could either start his own renaissance faire, or he and then fiancée Misha could get married. They decided to do both, and so a royal wedding in the midst of the woods highlighted 2017’s inaugural Sparta Renaissance Festival. For 2018, King James and Queen Misha brought all their loyal subjects back to Sparta, and expanded the faire to two weekends.

“We wanted to grow this year,” the king said, “and holding two weekends avoided the risk of getting rained out over a single weekend.”

Kimball, who has owned the property for several years, also operates Knight Realms, which offers live fantasy role-playing experiences. Kimball, looking every inch the king dressed in royal blue and draped with a fur cape, said he’d always wanted to try his hand at holding his own faire and was pleased with the reception they’d gotten in 2017.

“I wanted to do something that was more intimate and less commercial than the larger festivals,” he said.

Accompanied by the Knight of the Blue Faery, Sir Turqman (a friend of Kimball’s who also participated in last year’s royal wedding), the men were making their rounds and greeting visitors. Both were proud of the early acclaim given to the faire. “We were voted the best new Renaissance Faire of 2017,” Sir Turqman said. The king added that the accolade had come from Renaissance Festival Magazine, a leading publication for the niche market.

All manner of fantasy creatures could be seen roaming the grounds, from faeries and fauns, to ents (tree people) and elves. Pirates, warriors, and minstrels all mingled together to take in a variety of performances, try their hands at archery and ax-throwing, and visit with craftspeople and vendors. Children were delighted to find a mermaid in the waters of White Lake, who gave them shells as part of a faire-wide scavenger hunt.

Another big draw for children was squire training in the tournament ring, where they received instruction in (foam) swordsmanship before taking part in a mock battle. One lucky group of children was treated to a visit from the king during their training.

“The squire training is really popular,” King James said, “and so are the shows.”

The shows offered comedy, music, pageantry, and even fire-eating faeries and pirate performers.

JR the Ax-man and his partner Death make up the formidable duo known as Death and Axes. Tucked along one of the forest paths, the pair were keeping a watchful eye over their ax- and knife-throwing station.

“This is just wonderful,” JR said, “We’ve really grown into this second year, and there’s just a lot for people to do.”

Death, for his part, did not have much to say.

King James is working towards the goal of expanding and improving.

“You can’t start something like this without being eager to keep it growing and evolving,” Kimball said, “But we really don’t want to lose our roots. We want to keep to local vendors and local people, adding more each year. I’m so grateful to Sparta for letting me do something really good here.”

The Sparta Renaissance Festival ran on September 8th, 9th, 15th, and 16th this year and is now closed for the season, but they can be found online year-round at or on Facebook at Sparta NJ Renaissance Festival.

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