A few years ago, officials from the Hattiesburg Zoo noticed the large demand for LARP – or live action role-playing – and decided to create an event to accommodate those who dress in costume, use props and act out parts to bring a role to life.
Hence was born the Hattiesburg Zoo Renaissance Fest, which this year will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 and 28 at the zoo. The event is sponsored by SOLAR Mississippi, a LARPing company that runs two monthly games – Cerroneth and Aftermath – at its privately-owned campsite in Wiggins.
“There’s a huge group of LARPers in Hattiesburg and the surrounding areas, and we just saw there was a need for an event, so we created Renaissance Festival,” said Amanda Hargrove, director of marketing at the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which runs the zoo. “It has continued to be one of our largest – if not the largest – events each year.
“Last year, Renaissance Festival was the last event we put on before COVID-19 happened. So we’re excited to have it again this year.”
Guests are highly encouraged to dress in medieval clothing for the event, which will offer several activity stations, including candle making, butter making, horseshoe throwing, archery and an apothecary.
There also will be a hula hoop show, themed games, LARPing, a knighting ceremony, a stockade for photo opportunities and a raptor show.
To be officially knighted during the knighting ceremony, guests must participate in the SOLAR Conservation Quest.
“That is essentially a scavenger-type hunt inside the zoo, and once you complete that quest you go to the stage for the knighting ceremony,” Hargrove said. “You can only participate in that if you have completed the quest.”
In addition, Safari Grill will add smoked turkey legs to its menu along with mead for those over 21 years of age.
Admission to the Renaissance Festival is $10 for adults, $8 for children and free for children under 2 years of age.
Annual passes do not apply.
Tickets can be purchased at the zoo’s gate on the day of the event.
“(The festival) is definitely well-received,” Hargrove said. “I’m not sure of any specific on numbers, but because it’s a two-day event, we always have a big turnout. Because of COVID, we’ll definitely watch our numbers, but I’m sure this event will sell out.”
Zoo officials will take plenty of safety precautions in the face of the pandemic, including social distancing, extra hand sanitizing stations and encouraging guests to wear masks.
“The staff goes above and beyond to make sure that everything is clean and sanitized for our guests,” Hargrove said. “The animal encounters are a little bit different; we don’t do hands-on anymore, just for the animals’ sake and everybody else’s sake.
“But people will still get to get up close to some animals. We definitely have gone that extra mile to make sure everything is sanitized.”