Friday, April 12, 2024

Huzzah! Sparta N. J. Renaissance Festival Has Triumphant 6th Year

J.R. Whitcomb and Gypsy perform a bullwhip act. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

The Sparta Renaissance Festival returned for its sixth year at Camp Sacajawea in Sparta, New Jersey. Owner James C. Kimball expanded the faire to three weekends this season due to its popularity and the addition of more entertainment, vendors and a fourth bar.

Performing as “King James,” Kimball kept a hands-on approach to ensure the faire’s activities went smoothly. “My only goal is to walk the faire and make sure that everyone is having a good time and feels seen,” he said.

A rose seller named John wanders the faire. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

Attracting attendees from all over the tri-state area, people who are in the know about the Sparta Renn Faire appreciate the care that goes into the entertainment as well as the safety of guests.

Faire goers Margaretta and Will drove two hours from New York to attend and
have been coming to the faire since its inception. “We go to the other faires,
including the big one in New York, and one in England, but we love the Sparta
one,” said Margaretta. “It still has an authentic and non-commercialized feel,
and everyone is friendly.”

Attendees Margaretta and Will enjoying the faire in costume. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023
Click Clack the Raven (Percy Ulsamer) entertains guests at the faire. Photo by C. Tamulonis 9/2023

Just some of this year’s entertainment included: Shakespeare Approves who
got the audience on its feet to perform a hilarious and speedy rendition of
“Julius Caesar”; a professional whip artist J.R. Whitcomb (also known as
Karnevil); and, a group of Vixens en Gard who performed Comedy Shakespeare.

New this year was the addition of Temperance Belowe, a Puritan
Comedy Act, who “burned” witches with her sharp tongue. When she wasn’t
performing, she roamed the crowds, passing out “Sinner” clothespins to faire
goers she caught having a good time.

Puritan Temperance Belowe burns members of the audience as “witches”. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

Musical entertainment was robust with multiple harpists, bards, Celtic Folk bands and opera singers.

Queen Misha and her sister sang Opera. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

The King’s Jousting Tournament stole the show the first weekend, with knights decked out in full armor on horseback. On the second and third weekends, the Knights of Sussex put on a Grand Melee at the Queen’s Pavilion (main stage) with trained combat actors.

Trained swordsmen, or women, as this case was, the Knights of Sussex put on a riveting swordfight. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

The star of this year’s Grand Melee was professional actor Zachary Smith.
Originally from Surrey in the United Kingdom, Smith came to the United States
to study at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. There, he
was taught stage combat by J. Allen Suddeth, one of the few fight masters in
America.

“I was recommended for the faire this year by fight choreographer Mark A.
Rose,“ Smith said. “We train year-round for this kind of work, and performing
here has been very rewarding.”

A serious stage actor, Smith’s enjoyment for acting shone through in his interactions with the audience and excellent fighting skills. When he’s not practicing his parry, Smith works as a professional voice actor and collaborates on various projects with the breakout production company ZeroSpace in Brooklyn.

Professional actor Zachary Smith was bested by his opponent. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

The attractions, which were both indoor and out, were vast and energetic. Faire
goers had the opportunity to visit Medieval taverns, throw axes, practice
archery, go on interactive quests in the Enchanted Forest, and little ones were
encouraged to “Battle a Viking.”

Richard and his son Ritche arrived ready for battle. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

The family friendly faire also held demonstrations on blacksmithing by the
Hebrew Hammer, and Viking history by Clan of The Raven, a non-profit
educational historical group. Richie, an elementary school student who
attended the faire with his family said, “I’m excited to challenge someone to a
battle.”

The “Hebrew Hammer” blacksmith and his workers give demonstrations to the public. Photo by C. Tamulonis, 9/2023

Next year, Kimball plans to add even more entertainment and additional guilds, including a “Knight’s College.” If you missed your chance to attend this
year’s faire you can stay tuned for 2024’s events by following the pages
below.

To learn more about the Sparta Renaissance Festival, you can follow them on
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/spartanjrenfaire or go to their
website at https://www.spartanjrenfaire.com/

You can learn more about the Hebrew Hammer at his website:
https://hebrewhammerblacksmith.weebly.com/

You can follow Shakespeare Approves on Instagram @shakespeare.approves
and Temperance Belowe @temperancebelowe,

Cybele Tamulonis
Cybele Tamulonis, Contributing Writer

Cybele is a writer and editor with more than 16 years in the publishing industry. An avid reader, you can usually find her with the latest new book release from the local library. She currently resides on a farm in Hardwick with her husband and four children. In her spare time, she writes historical fiction specific to New Jersey.