Native south Floridians are accustomed to determining the seasons by the migration patterns of tourists. For example, when we see cars with their headlights on during the daytime, we know it's the December arrival of the Canadian snowbirds. When Las Olas Boulevard is overcrowded with shirtless men and giggling gaggles of girls, we know it's time for spring break. And when the price of chain mail suddenly goes up at our favorite fetish shop, we know we have come to the month of February, which brings us the Renaissance Festival.
Every year for more than a decade, the Ren faire folk have reappeared in Deerfield Beach and inhabited their charming little shire in Quiet Waters Park on Powerline Road, just south of Hillsboro Boulevard. It's a happy place, where those who have been repressing their very real need to dress in Renaissance costume are finally free -- free to drop all pretense of normality and determinedly cram their bodies into the leotards and bodices that they love so well.
The festival hosts hundreds of costumed professional performers and artisans and a jousting tournament featuring professional knights on horseback. This year, for the first time, local residents can compete in the "Quest to Be a Knight Challenge," a chance to test their skills in archery, fencing, axe throwing, chess, and a variety of other knightly pursuits. Those attendees not up to the challenge can participate in their own events, including the "spotting of anachronisms," the "critiquing of over-the-top theatre types," and the "paying of ten dollars for a turkey leg."
Returning for its 13th year, the Florida Renaissance Festival runs from 10 a.m. to sunset every Saturday and Sunday from February 12 to March 13 at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach. Events will also be held on February 21 (President's Day) and February 8th and 9th (school days). Tickets cost $17.50 for adults and $6 for children ages 5 to 12. Faux period attire is encouraged. For more information, call 800-RENFEST, or 954-776-1642. -- Jeff Megahan
Puerto Rican Fest Invades Broward
Put down your pop tarts, pick up your maracas, and get with the rhythm. The Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is on a mission to educate those whose exposure to boricua culture consists of Menudo videos, which appeared on television screens across America after Saturday morning cartoons in the '80s.
Take one pasito to the side, Ricky Martin -- because it's the veteranos of the salsa who will be reigning at this weekend's fourth annual Puerto Rican Fiestas Patronales and Business Expo. Legendary Fania All-Stars members Larry Harlow and Ray Barreto perform Thursday and Sunday respectively, and the original singers of Puerto Rico's five-decades-old Sonora Ponceña take the stage on Saturday. On Friday, get up-to-date with new music trends while getting down and dirty on the dance floor to the infectious urban sounds of reggaeton bands like Malas Maña, SouthRican, and 90 Millas. Wind back up to a salsa beat by Saturday to compete for a $10,000 dancing prize.
The event takes place at Boomers! Amusement Park in Dania Beach, off I-95 between Griffin and Stirling roads. Admission costs $15. For more information and a $3 discount, check www.prfiestas.com. -- Julienne Gage
Begin to Finnish
Scandinavia has never been so hot
The only thing the average South Floridian knows about Finland is that its weather's cold and there's a vodka named after it. But the Finns are about far more than freezing temperatures and moderately priced vodka. Their country has a rich cultural heritage that will be on display this weekend at the 14th annual Midnight Sun Festival at Bryant Park in Lake Worth.
Lake Worth sports the second largest Finnish community in the world west of Helsinki, and in season their numbers can almost double as Finns flock in from the old country and Canada. The festival is the culmination of a week's worth of events and includes entertainers and celebrities from Finland, traditional Finnish cuisine, folk dances, Finnish movies, children's entertainment, dances, amusements, and much more.
For a small slice of Lapland served warm, come out to Bryant Park (Fourth Avenue South at Lakeside Drive, Lake Worth) Friday through Sunday. Admission costs $3 for adults, $1 for children. Call 561-588-4081 or visit www.usasuomeksi.com/finnweek2005/index.html. -- Paul A. Leone
Cheapskates Go to Boca!
Looking for something to do in Mizner Park on the cheap -- besides park your lawn chair in the grass by the amphitheater and snake a free concert? (Hey, dudes, I saw you at the Darkness.) The 19th Annual Outdoor Juried Art Festival parks itself at Mizner Park (433 Plaza Real, Boca Raton) this weekend for free. More than 250 artists from all over the globe, including some of our homegrown Picassos, will showcase their works this weekend in the park. Works include mixed media, digital prints, homemade crafts, sculpture, and photography, by artists like impressionist John Galbo and Stan Kotzen (two favorites at the Boca Museum of Art). Best of all, you'll get your own chance to get your fingers dirty with children's crafts and entertainment. The show takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Call 561- 391-2500. -- Terra Sullivan