This year is the 34th anniversary of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Over those years, a lot has happened in and around Castle Gwynn, where the event occurs. What began with a few thousand attendees, now welcomes tens of thousands. But the road has not been all smooth sailing. Still, fans of RenFest are loyal and they are who allow Mike Freeman, the owner of the castle and founder of the festival, to manifest his dream of living in a real castle.
Freeman greets all of his guests and invites them to look inside his unique home. And yes, he really lives there with his wife, Jackie. Here are a few things Freeman shared with us.
1Castle Gwynn is 50 years in the making
The castle is 50 years in the making. Freeman began visualizing his ideas in a high school architecture class where he was supposed to draw his dream home.
2The castle was not complete when RenFest began
When Freeman started the RenFest, there were only two towers and no roof on the castle. One he lived in, and one was basically an empty shell.
3One day, you can get married at Castle Gwynn
From the very start, he planned to have weddings on the grounds, but he is just now building his event hall. He has been working on the hall for two years, and it will probably take two more years to complete. It is modeled after the dining hall in a French hunting lodge (what they called small rural castles). The fireplace will be big enough to stand inside and there will be a working drawbridge.
4Taylor Swift made a music video at the castle
When Taylor Swift was in the process of making her video “Love Story,” the director thought they were going to have to fly to Europe to find a castle to film. Then he discovered Castle Gwynn. It was perfect. The art director painted the stones on the front staircase. The paint is still there, ten years later.
5Castle construction was halted due to I-840
I-840 runs right through the original fairgrounds. Freeman was lucky enough to be able to purchase the land across the street to have a place to continue the RenFest. However, the blasting did a lot of damage. The blasts were like mini earthquakes. He had to stop building for a number of years.
6Many of the tapestries are handmade
One woman, Imogene Stone, handmade most of the tapestries in the castle. They are displayed throughout, but many are in the first-floor passage between the two towers. She, sadly, passed away last year.
7Jousting is real
Jousting is for real. They really try to knock each other off their horses. Both horse and rider are highly trained in the medieval sport. It is very dangerous. Competitors have broken ribs, collarbones, and shoulders; punctured lungs; and had concussions. Jousting tournaments were started to keep knights and their steeds in top physical condition so they would be ready whenever a war happened. They did a lot of fighting in the Middle Ages.
8RenFest is a melting pot of visitors
Visitors to the RenFest come from all walks of life. It is a real melting pot. From those just wanting to have a good time; to those interested in history; to Game of Thrones fans; to fantasy lovers; to gamers; to actors; to those obsessed with comic books, Star Wars, superheroes, and/or Star Trek. All are accepted and welcome.
9A real viking sword is on display
Freeman has a real Viking sword, as well as a battle sword, on display. They are really cool in spite of their history.
10Turkey legs are a big attraction
While you can find a variety of food at RenFest, like sausage, ribs, fried pies, cotton candy and so much more; the biggest draw for food is the turkey legs.
This just scratches the surface of what there is to know about Castle Gwynn and the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. You can go every year and still never see and do everything. Whether you are interested in seeing the castle, buying a dragon egg, or playing an ancient game of chance – this is the place to come.
Tennessee Renaissance Festival
2124 Newcastle Road Arrington, TN 37014
Dates of Festival: May 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26, plus Memorial Day May 27th, 2019