Des Moines Renaissance Faire History
After the Iowa Renaissance Festival moved from the state fairgrounds to the Amana Colonies in 1999, and Salisbury Faire held it's last year in 2002, and a new festival began in Des Moines.
2004 Spring - Iowa State Fair Parking Lot
Although planned to be held at Water Works Park, a flood just before the event caused it to be hastily relocated to a corner parking lot at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
- May 29-31, 2004 - Iowa State Fairgrounds. This event was intended to be held at Water Works Park, but severe flooding just days before opening caused it to move to a corner parking lot at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
2004 Fall - Water Works Park
Although a much prettier location than a corner parking lot of the state fair, the October Water Works Park location was still just tents in a park. And no real restrooms!
The second pre-Festival Park event.
- Oct 9-10, 2004 - Water Works Park. Determined to use the original park location, a second event was planned then held.
2005 - Iowa State Fair campgrounds
What? No castle? The "soft"/temporary location at the state fairgrounds was nothing but tents in a park.
The third and final pre-Festival Park event. (Well, unless you count a special student day mini-festival that was held on the soccer field at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park the following year...)
- May 28-30, 2005 - Iowa State Fairgrounds. Held in the campgrounds location formerly used by the Iowa Renaissance Festival.
2006 - Student Education Day
A one day Student Education day (not open to the public).
Held on the soccer fields (which later became the DMRF parking lot) at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, this one day event was offered for Des Moines area schools. Many of the merchants who vended were in the process of having their permanent shops designed and constructed across the river at what would soon be known as Festival Park (it didn't have a name yet).
- May 19, 2006 - Student Education Day at Sleepy Hollow
2006 - Year 1 at Festival Park
A very landscaping-bare Canterbury Plaza greeted guests in 2006. Wood chips and mud was all the rage that year!
Festival Park opens at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park on September 2nd, 2006. There was construction equipment still moving around the site mere minutes before the guests were let in! Severe raining proved that the new home had some drainage issues, but also proved that regatta boat races were possible in front of the royal food court area.
- Sep 2-4, 2006 - Pirates, Wenches & Scallywags
- Sep 9-10, 2006 - Kilts, Celts & Competitions
- Sep 16-17, 2006 - Romance, Rogues & Revelry
2007 - Year 2 at Festival Park
Privies that flush! Huzzah! (Some events in the region that have been around decades still do not have flushing toilets and real sinks!)
Even though they suffered some downtime early on, real restrooms were added to Festival Park during its second year of operation. The kinks were quickly worked out and now things operate much more smoothly (with the exception of running out of paper towels now and then)...
- Sep 1-2-3, 2007 - Pirates, Wenches & Rogues
- Sep 8-9, 2007 - Vikings, Knights & Bravehearts
- Sep 15-16, 2007 - Romance, Wine & Revelry
Additions in 2007:
- Permanent restrooms. Located between the jousting list and the archery/games area, new flushing facilities have been installed.
- Landscaping. Throughout Festival Park, our landscaping group has been planting trees, flower beds and grass.
- Main Street construction. The buildings on main street are closer to completion, with lower panels built and installed, as well as doors for most of the doorways. Some ceilings have been installed. The ticket area also has doors and lower panels now.
- Merchant shop improvements. Some merchants have been
further completing their building.
- The Potter's House has newly themed lower panels.
- Amos Fabulous Foods "Chinese" location has doors and lower panels (replacing opening year nut shop).
- Crepes and Cream has added a patio, tree and landscaping.
- Summerset Winery has continued to expand their patio bricks.
- The Viking Pavilion has added new themed roofing.
- 8/19: K's Bake Shoppe has a new patio bricks, and new sod has been set between the Bake Shoppe and Off With Your Bread next door.
- New merchant buildings. Four new merchant shops are under construction for 2007. They are located at the end of "Dragon Way" (the path to the right at the end of main street). The shops are located between Dragon Mine and Sir David's Wild Game near the corn maze area.
- New Bridgework. During the off-season when the entrance bridge was moved, it was raised and enhanced slightly.
- New fencing. A wall now separates the Sherwood Forest and Pirate's Cove area. New fencing has been installed along the walk between the bridge and the ticket entrance area.
- Stage Improvements.
- 8/19: Marick Castle Mural. Artwork continues on the mural.
- 8/19: Minstrel Stage. A colorful backdrop has been painted.
- 8/19: Children's Stage. A new stage set is being constructed.
- Clean and Dirty Stage for mud show.
- Dungeon Tour added to the corner of Marrick Castle.
2008 - Year 3 at Festival Park
King Oberon's Faery Realm treehouse.
In 2008, the first bit of expansion occurred with the addition of four new merchant shops (expanded in size, and built after the pattern used for 5+ shops on one of the High Street buildings).
- Aug 30-Sep 1, 2008 - Pirates, Heroes & Daring Duels
- Sep 6-7, 2008 - Highlanders, Celts & Lucky Lasses
- Sep 20-21, 2008 - Romance, Wine & Royal Revelry (Due to intense rains, this weekend was moved one week later, conflicting with the Omaha area Midlands Pirate Festival. Some merchants and performers had to depart to attend that event.)
More construction this year, too:
- Four new shops. Four new connected shops at the far South end.
- Treehouse. King Oberon's Treehouse added at far corner of the park, expanding the Children's Realm.
2009 - Year 4 at Festival Park
The Guild Hall/Village Marketplace gets a new roof!
2009 was probably the first year the park starting to look really pretty as landscaping started to mature. Further steps were taken to weather proof the park with the addition of a real roof over the formerly canopy-covered Village Marketplace, and a new concrete floor in the Feast Hall.
- Sep 5-7, 2009 - Highland Fling - Celts & Kilts
- Sep 12-13, 2009 - Royal Romance - Flavors & Favors
- Sep 19-20, 2009 - Buccaneer Pirates - Treasures & Pleasures
Notable additions in 2009:
- Landscaping. Planters added.
- Guild Hall Roof. A real roof was added to the Village Marketplace, replacing the tarp covers that were used the first few years.
- Shade. More canopies over stage areas (Children's, Minstrel) added, along with a few pieces of garden furniture to relax on.
- Feasting Hall Floor. Concrete floor added to the Wassail Feasting Hall, making the floor stay crunchy even in rain.
- Bavarian Cafe takes over the former Marcos location, expanding the building and redecorating in a German motif.
- Ames British Foods takes over the former Canterbury Sausage location, bringing even more international food.
- Dorlamagne's Living Treehouse. Expansive landscaping behind one of the new South end shops. Walk through and take a look!
2010 - Year 5 at Festival Park
Canterbury Plaza, September 4, 2010.
Massive flooding affects the entire area, from close to the Sleepy Hollow lodge all the way to Festival Park, but Sleepy Hollow's cleanup crew quickly got the park in to shape better than ever!
- Sep 4-6, 2010 - Knights, Barbarians & Heroes
- Sep 11-12, 2010 - Scots, Britons & Irish
- Sep 18-19, 2010 - Pirates, Persians & Buccaneers
New for the 2010 season:
- Even more Landscaping. Throughout Festival Park, our landscaping group has been planting trees, flower beds and grass. New "living tree" gazebo structure on High Street.
- Signage. After having names since year one, the first street signs finally go up, indicating HIGH STREET, DRAGONS WAY, and CASTLE LANE (with more to come).
- Guillotine. Food merchant, Off With Your Bread, finally gets the guillotine they have been talking about adding since opening year.
- Other Shop Improvements. Many cosmetic improvements at merchants such as Bavarian Cafe, Ames British Food, Amos Fabulous Foods, etc.
2011 - Year 6 at Festival Park
The Dungeon Tour, installed in the corner of Marrick Castle in 2007, receives a high-tech, computer controlled update. A new narrated five minute tour guides visitors through displays from a much darker time. Over the three weekends, the show evolved, with changes made to the soundtrack and timing.
- Sep 3-5, 2011 - Knights, Barbarians & Heroes
- Sep 10-11, 2011 - Scots, Britons & Irish
- Sep 17-18, 2011 - Pirates, Scallywags & Buccaneers
2012 - Year 7 at Festival Park
New banners and ribbons decorate the entrance bridge and the castle. The Dungeon Tour (aka Torture Chamber museum) returns with a reprogrammed show control system and automatic gates to keep the tours going more efficiently.
The weekend themes from 2011 return:
- September 1-3, 2012 - Knights, Barbarians & Heroes
- September 8-9, 2012 - Scots, Britons and Irish
- September 15-16, 2012 - Pirates, Scallywags and Buccaneers
2013 - Year 8 at Festival Park
- August 31-September 2 - Knights, Barbarians & Heroes
- September 7-8 - Scots, Britons & Irish
- September 14-15 - Pirates, Scallywags & Buccaneers
2014 - Year 9 at Festival Park
A new winery joined us, taking over the former tavern location (aka, Saucy Wench Tavern). The former Viking Pavillion becomes the new home of the expanded Saucy Wench Tavern with expanded bar and new decorations, including "port holes" that could be opened to let in extra air and light. The torture chamber tour once again receives more minor show updates.
- August 30-September 1 - Knights and Royals
- September 6-7 - Highlanders and Lucky Lasses
- September 13-14 - Pirates and Wenches
2015 - Year 10 at Festival Park
This was the final year the Des Moines Renaissance Faire was held at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park.
2016-2018 - Haitus
Festivals International signs a three-year "no compete" contract with Sleepy Hollow Sports Park and agrees not to host the Des Moines Renaissance Faire until 2019.
After a three year haitus, the Des Moines Renaissance Faire returns with a new management crew.
To see more photos of the Des Moines Renaissance Faire throughout the years, check out AtTheFaire.com's Iowa Photo Gallery (not affiliated with this website).