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Norwich – Fresh off the cancelation of the Podunk Bluegrass Festival, the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium has landed the monthlong Connecticut Renaissance Faire, which is promoting its new location as a "relaunch" of the event that started in 1999.
The faire – with a planned giant entrance gate to "transport" visitors to the time of King Henry VIII – will occupy the overflow parking lots to the left on the stadium grounds, said faire General Manager Brian Harvard. The event will run Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 21 to Oct. 20 and Columbus Day Monday. The fair is expected to bring some 30,000 visitors during that time span.
The Connecticut Renaissance Faire has been at the Hebron Fairgrounds since 2006, but Harvard said the host town's prohibition on beer and wine sales really hampered the event. The Willimantic Brewing Co. brew pub already is listed as an event sponsor.
Alcohol sales won't be a problem at Dodd Stadium, as the Connecticut Tigers plan to hold the minor league baseball team's annual Octoberfest during the faire on Oct. 12. That event features beer tasting and a chili contest.
"We went to visit Dodd Stadium in March," Harvard said. "We needed a new location. We seemed to be stagnating in Hebron, and they never allowed us to sell beer or wine. That was a major force in the decision."
Harvard said he was invited to tour Dodd Stadium by Norwich Community Development Corp. Vice President Jason Vincent in March and immediately fell in love with the setting.
The open grounds will allow the faire to run a true Renaissance theme this year, with events running from the 9th century setting of King Arthur to the reign of Henry VIII.
"It's going to look a lot different," Harvard said. "It will be very colorful and there will be a lot more pageantry. We're promoting it as a relaunch."
The faire's stars will be Henry VIII and first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. Harvard said the faire organizers will hold auditions soon to cast these main characters and then will hold auditions to cast several supporting characters.
"We're always looking for performers," he said.
As for patrons of the faire, they will be invited to come in costume, but that is not required.
Connecticut Tigers General Manager CJ Knudsen said he is excited about bringing this very different event to Dodd Stadium and hopes it becomes an annual Norwich staple. The Tigers will begin promoting the Renaissance Fair at Tigers games in August, along with the team's Octoberfest.
"It's another exciting event to bring to the community," Knudsen said. "We're about baseball, but we're really about family fun."