Hark! Is that the far-off call of minstrels, dressed in tights and sweaty velvet finery? Do I hear the distant clatter of semi-pro knights readying their armor and steeds, taking leave of their part-time jobs to pursue their real passion in life? Oh yes. Mount up, because northbound winds from Shakopee are starting to carry the sounds and scents from another era. Get ready to crawl down Highway 169 inside your own metal steed, amidst a stubborn traffic jam of similarly minded medieval escapists. Dust off your corsets and leather flails, because it's time to get your joust on. Have fun, but remember it can get hot on those trails among the wooden castles and stages, so drink lots of water while you check out the ropewalkers and Franko the Hypnotist. But who are we kidding? The beer is plentiful and there's ogling to do. Loosen up and try to out-insult the paid hecklers, mortgage the house to buy that authentic Claymore, and check out the aforementioned jousts, which take place daily. Or stay keen and try to out-bamboozle the sneaky chess masters, but keep in mind they aren't betting because they like to lose. The new incarnation of Puke and Snot (RIP Joe Kudla) still swag-arrrs! and yucks it up across the decks of their nautical-inspired stage, and the turkey drumsticks can still be shared by a small family. But if you think you've seen and done it all, you'll be excited to know there's a new evening pub crawl to keep things fresh. If you're the type who needs to ruin a relaxing day with healthy, non-authentic activities, the Ren Fest is inaugurating its Royal Race, a 10K-run/5K-walk on August 28. While a full suit of armor would probably put you last across the finish line, you'd definitely win the costume contest. Visit www.renaissancefest.com for more info.
Saturdays, Sundays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 20. Continues through Oct. 2, 2011