The Hattiesburg Zoo will host the third annual Renaissance Festival Feb. 16-17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Renaissance Festival is a very unique event, especially for a zoo. It’s a way to come [to the Hattiesburg Zoo] and step back in time,” Director of Conservation Education and Wildlife Jeremy Cumpton said.
Events will include theatrical performances, a knighting ceremony, battle stations, artisan demonstrations and raptor shows featuring the zoo’s hawks and owls.
“The festival really offers fun for the whole family. This year we’ve added several additions to make Ren-Fest the most immersive experience in Hattiesburg,” Public Relations Coordinator Shuntasia Coleman said.
This year’s festival will feature Enchanted Tea Time at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., in addition to a wine tasting experience for visitors 21 and older.
“I am hoping the wine tasting does well. This is the first year we are doing [a wine tasting] and tea time, and I think they’re really going to take off. We’ve never done a wine event at the zoo, so I’m really excited to bring that here,” Cumpton said.
Despite the new additions, Cumpton anticipates the live-action role-playing event hosted by Southern Organization of Live Action Roleplaying Aftermath and SOLAR Cerroneth to be the most successful.
“Everyone, not just the kids, goes crazy for it,” Cumpton said.
Despite the family-friendly activities, Cumpton dubbed Renaissance Festival as a millennial-targeted event, and he believes it is a way to get people to come to the zoo who normally would not.
“Wildlife across the world, not just here in Mississippi, are facing a very hard time, so we do fun events like this to bring people in,” Cumpton said. “The kids get excited, the parents are excited to bring their kids; so, while they’re here, they can have fun while getting education about conservation and protecting animals. It gives us the chance to tell them a little about how they can help out.”
Laura Leggett, outreach coordinator of the Hattiesburg Zoo, attended and participated in last year’s Renaissance Festival.
“[Renaissance Festival] is probably my favorite event of the year. It’s a really good family event, there’s a ton to do, there’s good food, crafts—it’s a lot of fun,” Leggett said. “I really do love the animal encounters, such as the raptor show and getting to show off our animals in the nice, spring weather.”
Despite the long list of planned events, Cumpton said the main goal is to inform guests about the zoo’s wildlife.
“We don’t want to overwhelm people [with activities]. We want them to come here and not only enjoy the event, but we also want them to focus on the animals and learning about conservation and how they can help them in their natural habitat. It doesn’t take getting a degree in biology to learn how to better help animals out by not littering or making smarter purchases.”
Admission is $5, and children under two years old are free. Tickets can be purchased at the gate on the day of the event. For additional information, call the Hattiesburg Zoo at 601.545.4576 or visit online at HattiesburgZoo.com.
photo courtesy Hub City SPOKES