Visitors can take a trip back to the 16th century once again this fall as the Texas Renaissance Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary.
The festival has steadily grown since opening in 1974 and now welcomes more than 500,000 visitors every year. During its inaugural season, the festival hosted about 3,000 visitors, Marketing Director Cory Brock said.
"The Renaissance Festival began in the '70s when it was just a bunch of hippies," Brock said. "One of the reasons we are so popular right now is because of the geek movement that has come about with popular shows like 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Star Wars,' Comic-Con coming around and online comics coming along."
This year will mark the debut of the King Midas' Masquerade ball for visitors 21 and older, along with the return of festival staples, such as the King's Feast, performances, rides and games. Masquerade ball visitors are required to wear masks or face paint.
"We wanted to create something new that could reach outside the 16th century," Brock said. "In the festival theme park out here, we don't have any lights, electronics or amplified music. But in this masquerade ball, we have created a whole new facility. It is air conditioned, it has lights, amplified music, carpet and all the food and drinks that you would like as well."
Festival attendants will distribute 50,000 commemorative coins to visitors to this year's event marking the anniversary. In addition, the festival has added 35 new food items, and has implemented a shuttle service for preferred parking customers and disabled visitors, Brock said.
"We try to answer our customers needs, and we try to make the festival the best we can," Brock said. "We have gluten free and vegetarian items as well included in the new food items."