Realistic jousting to take place at Santa Rosa County Fairgrounds' June Ates Arena

AARON LITTLE
alittle@srpressgazette.com
Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire owner Steven Melei

MILTON — The June Ates Arena at the Santa Rosa County Fairgrounds has drawn an attraction that spent its last 14 years at the Pensacola Fairgrounds, the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire and Pirate Festival. Faire owner Steven Melei promises full-contact jousting, March 3 and 4, rain or shine.

"We always worried about the fact it’s an outdoor event and that’s our main draw," Melei said.

The covered arena has the seating, the shelter from elements and the bathroom facilities Melei said he was seeking.

Melei hasn’t considered possible attendance differences, he said, at the new location but isn’t worried.

"We’ve been inexistence now 18 years," he said. "Quite a few people are into it…and we expect them to not have a problem with the travel…It’s not that much travel (with a) location off (Interstate 10)."

The new location may draw more from eastern locations, Melei said, like Crestview, Holley-Navarre, Fort Walton Beach and the military bases like Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Naval Air Station Whiting Field.

The Faire has numerous performers from belly dancers to jesters, medieval musicians to swashbuckling swordsmen. Many earn a wage for their performances.

"It’s a mix (but they’re) mainly paid performers," Melei said. "A lot of people do it as a labor of love. They do it because they love to do it. Some work for tips and some won’t accept tips."

Anyone interested in looking into performing at a future fair should start on the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire’s Facebook page or website and send an information request and be ready to supply audition materials like photos and video.

The jousting knights were also on the History Channel’s "Full Metal Jousting," Melei said.

"They don’t fake anything," Melei said. "They do it like in the Renaissance times except for some safety guards so they don’t impale anyone and live to do it another day. The falling off the horse (is real). They don’t fall for effect."

The June Ates Arena is at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, 8604 Bobby Brown Road in Milton. The Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire & Pirate Fest will take place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and costs $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under and entry is free for children four years old and younger.