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Cabarrus Magazine

'Up Front' Gets Scoop on What's New at the Renaissance Festival, Opening this Weekend

Oct 01, 2019 10:02AM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 29: It's Ren Fest Time! Huzzah!

Read the Full Transcript of this Episode below or Click to hear the Entire Episode as well!

Huddle: (00:00)
Welcome. Nobles, peasants and my fellow countrymen, to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Eadi's Salon and Your CBD Store of Concord. I'm your host Jason huddle and it's Renaissance festival week. Huzzah!

Huddle: (00:41)
Welcome to this Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine episode all about the Carolina Renaissance festival. It opens next weekend, October 5th and runs through November 24th and we were invited to come on out to the festival grounds and speak with Matt Seigel, who is the director of marketing out there and you'll hear in our conversation today we'll be talking about a wide gambit of things regarding the festival, including what's new this year, what you can expect if you've never been, and some special promotions that they have going on. We are very excited to be talking about the Renaissance festival. It's a lot of fun if you've never been. My family and I, we go every year because it's so much fun. There's entertainers, there's great food, there's rides for the kiddies, but Renaissance-era type rides, not a roller coaster in the middle of a Renaissance fair. There's all kinds of fun street performers. The list just goes on and on and of course the jousting is impeccable. It is actual jousting, by the way. If you have not picked up the September issue of the magazine, I suggest you do that. We've got the Renaissance festival on the cover. We talk about them in the magazine, so if you want some more details about the festival, make sure you pick that up. Oops, I think I just segwayed into shameless plug time.

Huddle: (02:00)
Okay. I want to make an announcement. I've been promoting the last couple of weeks that we are running a competition online for those people that are doing anything as far as commenting, sharing, interacting with our Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine Podcast page, we are automatically entering you into a drawing for two tickets to the Carolina Renaissance Festival and our first winner is Kemet Shetty. She has interacted several times over the last few weeks and we wanted to reward her with two tickets to the Carolina Renaissance festival. So Kemet, we'll be getting you those tickets this week and we hope you enjoy the festival. As far as any other shameless plugs, Hey, just be on the lookout for the October issue coming out next week. It's all about Fall in Cabarrus County. The Summer is over, although you'd never know it by the temperatures right now, but Fall is upon us and there are lots of great things to do and so we've got the lowdown on all the great things as far as festivals and including the arts. Um, and then we go out to Whisky Prison and talk about some ghosts out there. So a lot of fun in the October issue of the Magazine. Make sure you keep an eye out for that. It will be out online and in stands on October one and that's this week's shameless plug time.

Huddle: (03:18)
Speaking of Fall festivals, I wanted to make mention of something that we were just made aware of this week on last week's podcast. We actually spoke with Holly Sloop from Concord Downtown Development Corporation and we spent a good amount of time talking about the Hops and Heat festival. Well, of course, as luck may have it at, the beginning of this week, the Concord Downtown Development Corporation board decided to cancel the Hops and Heat event. So, unfortunately in the October issue of the magazine, we actually spent some time talking about the Hops and Heat festival as part of that article about Fall festivals. And there was nothing we could do at this point. It was canceled after we went to press. So that'll be in the magazine. Just disregard that. Of course, disregarding the information that you heard in last week's podcast regarding that event. I know the CDDC has told me they are actively planning a replacement festival probably for next year. Uh, but that is the case as we know it now, so that event, Hops and Heat is not going to happen and it has been canceled. So that's unfortunate. We were actually a sponsor of the Hops and Heat festival and now we are a sponsor of the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, which is coming up in just a few weeks on October 19th so make sure you check out that. There will actually be a commercial for that running later on in this program. So make sure you keep your ears out. It'll give you some details on how to get tickets and what all that is about or you can listen to last week's podcast, we also talked about that event then as well. When we come back from break, we'll be out at the Carolina Renaissance festival grounds to talk to Matt Seigel about this year's festival. Stay tuned.

Commercials: (04:57)

Huddle: (06:50)
Welcome to this episode of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. I am very pleased to be on location today at the Carolina Renaissance festival grounds. There is a much abuzz about the village today of Fairview because we are only less than two weeks away, right, from the, from the opening of the festival. And Matt Seigel, who is director of marketing among many other things, many other hats that he wears for the festival. Um, he has graciously agreed to sit down with us today. So Matt, first of all, thanks for letting us come out and visit and be on the program today. Thanks for having me and appreciate it. So let's start back at the beginning. For those people that aren't familiar with the Renaissance festival, give us just a little brief history about how this thing came about and how it's become such a big success.

Seigel: (07:38)
Sure. So this festival opened in 1994, uh, right here in Huntersville on the border of Cabarrus County and Mecklenburg County. Uh, the show first was opened and produced by Jeffrey Seigel, who is my uncle. He brought me on board about 15 years ago, 16 years ago actually. Uh, when the festival had, uh, finished its 10th year. Uh, it got to the point where all the startup costs were paid down and he was able to look for somebody on, uh, to fill a marketing role on a year round basis. The show could afford at that point to hire somebody. Uh, and he wasn't aware at the time until one of my relatives threw my name in the hat that I was in Atlanta and advertising and marketing, uh, working for Cox media. And I also had a small little concession business. I had opened up inside six flags amusement park in Atlanta. And, uh, when Jeff got wind of that, he called me up and asked me to meet with them and, and we talked and, and he brought me on board all those years ago and here I am today.

Huddle: (08:46)
So I remember way back when, in fact, Jeff was on our cover many, many moons ago. I think it was in our first or second year of having the magazine. So this is almost, this is probably about 18 years ago, uh, that he was on our cover. And I remember back then, I came out to the grounds before the festival opened just like I did today. But the grounds were much smaller then. They pretty much ended right where the jousting is. They didn't wrap on around like they do now. How has the festival been able to grow the way it has, not only in popularity but in sheer acreage that you're taking up?

Seigel: (09:22)
Sure. When, when Jeffery opened the festival on this property, on this site, he had a long-term goal and vision for the event and the village. The secret to the success of these events is to grow slow and over long periods of time because there have been history of, uh, of these events being opened and operated at other locations around the country where unfortunately operators jump in and they go big too fast and it's hard to sustain that type of model. And, and unfortunately they were unable to succeed. We don't want anybody to not succeed. But Jeff has 40 now 45 years of experience in this type of industry of large ticketed festivals, amusement parks, concerts, etc. So he knows the tread slowly tread carefully and smartly and he has, and the festival as a result, um, has evolved in to being the size that it is today.

Huddle: (10:35)
How many acts do you guys have? There's, there's - and, and I say acts, that's kind of a hard question to answer because there's so many different kinds of acts. There's your stage acts, there's your, uh, just your sort of street acts that are kind of wandering through the festival, jugglers and beggars and all kinds of things. And, uh, so, but how many, how many entertainers I should say, how many entertainers do you guys employ them?

Seigel: (11:00)
Sure. There's over 300 performing artists.

Huddle: (11:03)
Holy cow.

Seigel: (11:04)
Working the village, every festival day. And they're on stage. You mentioned they're in the lanes, they're performing a whole variety of entertainment and really the, it runs the whole gambit of professionals who tour the country, tour the globe, uh, as stage performers to all the way down to volunteers who, you know, they just love the history, the time period. They - they're cosplayers, they like to be dressed in costume.

Huddle: (11:33)

Seigel: (11:33)
And they just want to be a part of the event more so as a hobby. And so they come out and we have a role for them too. They put on a nice costume, they run the village, they accompany the queen. It's just a whole variety. And then we have all range of folks in between, from community theater participants to high school theater participants, uh, all the way up to amateur professionals or folks that once had a, a career in television, but they've taken time off or you know, they might be now an engineer at Wells Fargo and then still want to keep their toes in the acting and performing world on the weekends. So it's just a whole gambit of folks.

Huddle: (12:12)
When we get back from break, I've got to throw it to break because I have sponsors too and we need to pay homage to them. But when we get back from break, I want to talk about, uh, some new things happening at the festival this year and what people can expect in just a couple of weeks.

Seigel: (12:26)
Okay. Sounds great.

Huddle: (12:27)
All right, stay tuned. We'll be back with Matt Segal from the Carolina Renaissance festival in just a moment.

Commercials: (12:32)

Huddle: (14:26)
Welcome back to this complete episode on the Carolina Renaissance festival. We're dedicating the whole episode to you guys.

Seigel: (14:35)

Huddle: (14:35)
Huzzah! Do you ever get tired of that word, by the way?

Seigel: (14:39)
Not at all. It's great and it has so many purposes and uses. It's, it's almost like uh, almost like profanity in a lot of ways, but very, very positive kind of way.

Huddle: (14:50)
I suppose, depending on your inflection, you know, it could mean about anything.

Seigel: (14:54)
It really could!

Huddle: (14:55)
Do people walk around the festival, off season talking in English accents. I'm just curious.

Seigel: (15:01)
Oh, it's funny. In our other office, a trailer that's, uh, located adjacent to this one, we have a sign inside that says this is an office trailer. Don't talk funny in here.

Huddle: (15:16)

Seigel: (15:17)
And that's because of that reason, because folks will still not break character. They'll stumble into the office, they'll need photocopies, they want to send a fax or whatever it may be. Uh, and we have to say, wait a minute, you can lose your accent now. It's OK. You have permission.

Huddle: (15:32)
That's funny. So let's talk about the festival this year. Some new things. Actually, you guys added some mermaids last year and some new acts this year. Tell us about that.

Seigel: (15:41)
Yeah, sure. So the mermaid exhibit is one of our newest attractions and quickly became one of the biggest and most popular attractions. We introduced it last year. Uh, so if you haven't been in recent years, you want to come out and check it out. We have an aquarium tank with these amazing mermaid models who are performing all sorts of tricks and stunts inside the aquarium tank. Uh, and they're beautiful and their, their tails are gorgeous, a very long flowing silicone tails, very lifelike, very just beautiful. And they interact with kids through the glass of the aquarium tank while they're swimming and blowing bubbles. But then next to the tank, we also have this gorgeous clamshell throne and there's a second mermaid who is on the throne for photos. So your child gets to walk up to the tank and interact with the swimming mermaids and then walk over to the throne, hop on the throne and get a photo taken with a mermaid. And this is just another free addition to the festival. It's not -

Huddle: (16:36)
You took away my next question is - is that all included with your ticket?

Seigel: (16:39)
Yeah, it's all included in the ticket. We try so hard to make sure that this festival is as affordable as possible for everybody. We resist increases in pricing as much as we can because we want folks to be able to come out, enjoy themselves, have a good time, maybe come out twice in the season, come out every festival year, families to come out, uh, and hopes of feeling like they're leaving, like they didn't break the bank. Uh, and we, there's plenty of free mission opportunities in discounted admission opportunities. We have it all listed on our website. Great ways to save, visit that webpage if you need to save some bucks on, on a mission. Uh, we got it all detailed on the website.

Huddle: (17:17)
And then I think there's another new act this year called pirouette. Is that right?

Seigel: (17:21)

Huddle: (17:22)

Seigel: (17:23)
In her magical musical box. So pirouette is a ballerina. Uh, she has come to life. It's a music box, just not all that unlike, uh, what your daughter may have on her bedside table and children get the walk up to pirouette and crank the key of her music box and watch her turn and come to life as she performs for their enjoyment. It's adorable. I highly recommend checking it out.

Huddle: (17:48)
Now where will she be located throughout the festival?

Seigel: (17:51)
Just pass the joust, around the corner to the right as you're making your way towards the Dutch door stage where the belly dancers perform and over by the camel rides.

Huddle: (18:00)
So one of the favorite things that I always hear about is the food. The food here is phenomenal. Specifically of course the Turkey legs.

Seigel: (18:10)

Huddle: (18:10)
Everybody loves the Turkey legs. How in the world if you get those Turkey legs so huge?

Seigel: (18:16)
Yeah. So we have a gym here on the property where turkeys are working out nonstop seven days. They're just getting swole. Uh, their muscles are massive. No kidding. Um, you know, we were the first special event to introduce these giant roasted Turkey legs to the Charlotte area and then everybody just started kind of copying us afterwards. But yeah, I can't divulge our secrets on who our supplier is. Um, mainly because all the other special events can't seem to quite get them as big as we do.

Huddle: (18:47)
I've never seen the like, yeah. I've been to plenty of events and ordered to plenty of Turkey legs in my time.

Seigel: (18:52)
Yeah. So there's, and we don't want to give away that secret, uh, for sure. Uh, but our food and beverage program - we take a tremendous amount - We have determined this amount of pride in that program. It's all operated in house. There are no independent food and beverage concessionaires here at the fairgrounds. Um, our, our food and beverage director is Eli Kojalic. He is a utmost professional. His experience in the past prior to joining us was he used to cater, uh, movie productions and also large concert tours. Uh, so this, uh, is a perfect venue for him to, um, display his wonderful skills that, uh, organizing such a massive feast for 200,000 people that we have to feed throughout the course of eight weekends. It's a big undertaking.

Huddle: (19:37)
About how many pounds of food is that?

Seigel: (19:38)
Oh, tons. Tons and tons.

Huddle: (19:39)
A lot.

Seigel: (19:40)
Yeah. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but we actually do have a list just for fun of, uh, the tonnage of turkeys, a tonnage of steak. Um, numbers of bread bowls, all that. Yeah, I can provide that to you.

Huddle: (19:54)
And I'm always torn too between the Turkey legs, the bread bowls, just everything's so good.

Seigel: (19:59)
It's impossible to choose. Yeah.

Huddle: (20:01)
All right, so I'm hungry now, so I'm going to throw it to break. Go grab something to eat. We'll come back and wrap it up with Matt Seigel from the Carolina Renaissance festival in just a moment. Stay tuned.

Commercials: (20:10)

Huddle: (21:29)
Welcome back. Once again, we are wrapping it up with Matt Seigel from the Carolina Renaissance festival. Matt, again, appreciate you spending some time with this today. There are lots of specific, even once the festival starts, there are lots of specific weeks that are highlighting one thing or another. Why don't we get into it a little bit? We won't go through the whole list, but I know like the first, I think it's the first weekend or second weekend. There's like kids week, is that right?

Seigel: (21:56)
Yeah, so every weekend at the festival is a new adventure. So opening weekend, it's our grand opening. We're kicking in the off for the season and we just simply are promoting out in the marketplace. We're here and we're offering buy one - get one adult admission tickets. Uh, at the box office you have to have a coupon. All the coupon location details are on our website. That's just the opening weekend, big kickoff promotion. But after that, our kids' weekend is the second weekend. We call it kid's fantasy weekend. We're having, Robin Hood is a special guest and he's hosting an archery competition this year. That's new, uh, free admission for children with a coupon. Again, details on the website and the list goes on. We do a special events for the weekend leading up to Halloween with free trick or treating throughout the village. Harris Teeter is a big supporting sponsor for that event. Costume contest almost every single weekend. We have a brew Fest weekend where we do a beer festival inside the festival with a lot of craft beer, uh, on hand, uh, courtesy of foothills.

Huddle: (22:56)
That is not for the kiddies, by the way.

Seigel: (22:58)
That's not for the kids. Now you must be 21 and up. And that's a, uh, um, put together in part by Foothills Brewing Company in Winston Salem and they're fantastic. Uh, so we recommend brew fest. Time Travelers weekend is a new recent addition that we just added and the popularity that we've noticed with all the Marvel movies, all the game of Thrones, for example, we started seeing so many people attend the Renaissance festival and ah, Oh, whole variety of costumes that are not period, Renaissance or medieval in nature. And so we started thinking, well, if all these folks want to come out and show off their costumes at the festival, maybe we dedicate a weekend for them. So we call it time travelers weekend. You can dress up as superheroes, villains, stormtroopers, whatever you want. And time travel to our village of Fairhaven, back to the Renaissance time period. Uh, and then we started layering in a bunch of activities around that theme. We have a replica DeLorean time machine that we park at the village. Uh, we have a tardis from - for Doctor Who fans,

Huddle: (24:04)
But it is time of travelers weekend because you're traveling through time to Fairview.

Seigel: (24:08)

Huddle: (24:09)
Fairhaven. Yeah. I said Fairview at the beginning of the program. I apologize. Fairhaven.

Seigel: (24:13)
No problem.

Huddle: (24:14)
But you, that doesn't mean you are a time traveler. You don't have to be Doctor Who or Doc Brown, you don't have to. You can be anything you want.

Seigel: (24:23)
Any character from any universe, literary pop culture, television, movies, you name it. Uh, we actually in honor of the sort of literary tie-in, we have, uh, several local authors that are going to be doing book signings and making available their um, sci-fi and fantasy books, uh, for those who are fans of that genre. Uh, we also are doing a school supply drive that benefits classroom central and also the Charlotte Mecklenburg library system, uh, where we're collecting used books as well as school supplies at the box office gate for those who donate their children, get an admitted for free for that weekend. And we're filling trucks and trucks and trucks of school supplies and, and use books that benefit those partners.

Huddle: (25:07)
So that's the last weekend of the show, right?

Seigel: (25:09)
Second to last.

Huddle: (25:11)
Second to last weekend. But the pirates Christmas is the week before that.

Seigel: (25:13)

Huddle: (25:13)
Usually the pirates Christmas is like right with right at the end of the show. So why that last week?

Seigel: (25:18)
So pirates Christmas used to be the second to last weekend and we pushed that back. The pirate Christmas promotion is a big shopping promotion that happens inside the village. You spend uh, $250 a more supporting all the independent artists and vendors and merchants inside the festival. That is money that goes to them. The Renaissance festival does not get a piece of that. It goes to them. You spend $250 with all these wonderful, amazing artists in the artisans marketplace and then you receive two free tickets to come back to the festival. And we wanted to give everybody an extra weekend to be able to use those tickets. So that's why we shifted the calendar.

Huddle: (25:58)
Okay, that makes sense.

Seigel: (25:59)
Instead of it being where you get these two tickets and you have to come back the next weekend or else you lose them because the festival ends for the season. Right. We wanted to give two weekends of opportunity for folks to come back.

Huddle: (26:10)
That makes perfect sense. Yep.

Seigel: (26:12)

Huddle: (26:13)
Anything else we need to know about the festival this year?

Seigel: (26:16)
Just check out our website at All the details are there. Come on out and see us if you've never been before. It's not anything you, you think it is. It's, it's so much more and we encourage you to give us a try.

Huddle: (26:31)
I would, I will say this too and this is an honest testimonial. My wife, we could do a whole show on her rules about what she will and will not watch in movies and things like that. Renaissance period stuff is not in her wheelhouse. That is not her at all. But she does enjoy the Renaissance festival. She loves it. We come every year. And, uh, so just to, just to let you know, just to back backup what you were saying, if you, even if you don't really care about history or the Renaissance or that period of time, I guarantee you're going to have a fun time. If you come out. Something here - there is something here for you to enjoy.

Seigel: (27:07)
Ultimately it's just a, an escape for the day, a fun time with your family or even your friends and you're walking through this amazing immersive experience and it's the best people watching you can have in the Charlotte area.

Huddle: (27:21)
That is true.

Seigel: (27:22)

Huddle: (27:23)
Especially time travelers weekend.

Seigel: (27:24)
Exactly. So come on out and see us.

Huddle: (27:26)
Absolutely. Thanks Matt Seigel from the Carolina Renaissance festival. Appreciate you having us out and we look forward to the festival this year.

Seigel: (27:33)
Thanks for having me.

Huddle: (27:38)
Hey, I want to thank Matt Segal for being on our program today and taking some time with this. Once again, I learned a lot about the Renaissance festival, actually got a behind the scenes tour and they have really expanded, I mean this event is something special and it is one of the largest in the country. To be honest, I've never been to another Renaissance festival besides ours so I have no reference for comparison, but from what I understand it is one of the nicest and largest festivals ever presented in this country. It is a lot of fun and in an era where we are struggling to find things that we can do with our families. This is a great day out so I encourage you to check it out. Again, it's running October 5th through November 24th you can check out run Fest, for more information on how to get tickets and all that good stuff. I want to thank our sponsors today, Atlantic Bay Mortgage, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, CERTEC Automotive, Code Ninjas, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, family Wealth Partners, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Eadi's Salon and Your CBD Store of Concord. Don't forget to support those that support us. I've been your host Jason huddle until next week. Go ahead and enjoy the festival with your family. Huzzah!

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