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The Ohio Renaissance Festival may be a tribute to Elizabethan era England, but organizers say the food festivalgoers may try in the 16th century replica village has roots firmly planted locally.
The Renaissance Festival continues to draw as many as 200,000 annually to small town Harveysburg during its seven week run, and organizers say the event has become something it takes an entire year to prepare – and local food is the backbone of the well-known event.
"Our numbers are up over last year," said Chris Cavender, the food manager for the fair.
The fair's signature dish, the enormous smoked turkey leg, is a product of Bowman Landes Free Range Turkey in New Carlisle; a farm with sustainability in mind. In addition to free-range philosophy, the farm is powered by a 50-kilowatt Solar Electric Generating System, which can be monitored online.
The festival sells 33,000 to 35,000 Turkey Legs every year.
"We start taking about getting ready for the festival in January," Cavender said, "We start getting ready to smoke the turkey legs in March, and we've bought them locally for the past 20 years."
The festival keeps several kinds of beer and wine bottled and on tap, but the drink you can't miss when you step through the gates is the Mead. The honey-brewed alcoholic beverage is produced locally by Valley Vineyards in Morrow.
A third generation family business, Valley Vineyards makes the sweet drink by fermenting clover honey to give it a rich golden color and sweet aftertaste. Between 120 and 130 cases of the mead are consumed each year at the festival, Cavender said.
"We tried a lot of meads from England and Ireland, but out of all of them I tasted, this one was the best," Cavendar said. "We thought it would be more popular; a lot of the imports are real herbaceous, and they don't go over well in Ohio."
In fact, the festival many of its tastiest dishes from in state. The roasted "steak-on-a-stake" meat comes from farms in northern Ohio, as does the chicken for the chicken tenders and other dishes that are so popular at the festival, Cavender said.
Of other well-liked fest food, the sausages and brats come from farms in Kentucky, and the Haggis comes from Oregon.
"There's a small core group of us that runs things," he said, "We try to go to at least one other fest every year to see what type of foods they offer. We try to narrow it down to core, signature items we can rotate in."
This year, for example, the festival has introduced a macaroni and cheese stew served in a bread bowl inspired by a festival in Cleveland that Cavender said is "selling like crazy." Also new this year are a buffalo chicken dip and a new variety of caramel apple kettle corn also produced locally, Cavender said.
The festival continues through October 21. For more information, go to http://renfestival.com.
Ohio Renaissance Festival
10542 E State Route 73
Waynesville, OH 45068
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