Folklore faithfully fabricated at fantasy festival
Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018
From all across the Southeast and beyond they came—merchants, musicians, magicians; craftsmen, cooks, and chivalrous knights; pirates, poets, peasants–and more than a few of the fairy and elfin folk.
For three days, the picturesque hills and dales of the 35-acre site of the Alabama Medieval Fantasy Festival near Greenville rang with the sounds of bagpipes, guitars and drums, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer against his anvil and the laughter and cries of the crowd as they cheered on their champion jousters at the Field of Valor.
The third annual event brought together 60 vendors offering everything from sumptuous handmade cloaks and whimsical adoptable fairies to goat’s milk soap and mouth-watering homemade fudge in a dizzying variety of flavors, in a fantastical kingdom filled with a large cast of colorful characters and faces both new and old to the ALMFF landscape.
Honoraville resident Randy Courtney of Blackwater Creations and his family were among the newcomers to the festival. The trapper, taxidermist and artisan in leather, wood, fur and just about any other natural material on which he can lay his hands, had a tent in the shady lane next to the pond.
The Courtneys, dressed like all the other vendors in the required historic or fantasy garb, had no shortage of customers to keep them busy.
“I know some people said numbers were down this year, but we were amazed at the traffic over the weekend,” said Courtney’s wife, Robin. “The sales definitely exceeded our expectations. To be honest, we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing, as this was our maiden vendor show of any kind. But everyone took us under their wing and treated us like longtime members of the faire family. They checked on us frequently and made sure we were doing well.”
Mickey Ray Stringer, also of Honoraville, returned to the faire for the third time as a vendor. Stringer, who describes himself as man “born in the wrong age” who has always been interested in the knights of old and their code of chivalry, says he had a “wonderful three days” at ALMFF 2018.
“I sold a lot of my new Viking shields along with my medieval shields and made a lot of new friends, too.”
The Spradley family from Prattville made a full weekend of it at the festival. Kimberly and Edward and their four children—Logan, 6, Aiden, 4, Gabriel, 3 and Keegan, 2—got a hotel room in Greenville and spent all day at the faire Friday through Sunday.
“This was our second year and we are definitely coming back next year. The boys just love it. Their favorite part is the jousting,” said Kimberly Spradley. “We always have a ball there.”
Ashley and Elijah Shane Jacques and their daughter Lilly, also of Prattville, are festival cast members who once again invested considerable time and sweat equity in helping prepare the site for this year’s event on the weekends leading up to the faire.
And this year was especially memorable for the couple. On Sunday, the Jacques renewed their wedding vows in a traditional hand-fasting ceremony with Lilly singing and more than a few eyes—including Ashley Jacques—shedding tears.
“We’ve been together for fourteen years and this was just something we really wanted to do. And we also wanted everyone to know that they, too, can come and renew their vows or even hold their wedding at our site during the year. It’s such a beautiful and special place.”
As for Robin and Randy Courtney, they are already looking forward to 2019.
“I can’t say enough great things about the festival,” Robin Courtney said.
“It was amazing and also a great educational weekend for our son, Jacob. Hands-on history can’t be replicated with a book.”
Just don’t expect to find them under a tent again next year.
“The trapper is already talking about building a permanent shop onsite for Blackwater Creations. He is definitely hooked,” his wife said with a laugh.
In its three years, the festival has come a long way, say those involved with it.
Mickey Ray Stringer recalls seeing a flyer in Fred’s in Greenville about the festival back in early 2016. After visiting the site and “catching the vision” from ALMFF’s co-owners Nancy and Greg Ardoin, aka King Gregory and Queen Annwynn of the Kingdom of Dragon Croft, Stringer was ready to join in their quest to make this mythical kingdom a reality.
“That first year I sat high atop the hill above the jousting arena and sold my hand-crafted shields. I took great pleasure in presenting my craft and finding people who loved what I do—and I haven’t looked back,” Stringer explained.
“My craft has gotten better and I now have seven events under my belt. All thanks to a flyer and two wonderful people with a vision. Thank you, Greg and Nancy. I am so glad we have the Alabama Medieval Fantasy Festival right here in Greenville.”