Johnsons Christmas Corner

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Hazzah! It’s Good To Be King (of the Texas Renaissance Festival!)

HE’S REIGNED AS HIS GRACE, the King of the Texas Renaissance Festival, for the past 20 years. Yes, since 1998, Greg Taylor has doled out huzzahs at the main gate in Todd Mission, presiding over a kingdom of some 500 vendors, leading the Grande Marche Parade, reciting daily proclamations alongside his queen, and, as of last year, hosting the King’s Feast, at which mere peasants can join His Majesty for an all-you-can-eat dinner for just $119.

Taylor, 53, has worked at RenFest for some 33 years, at first to make money on the weekends during college, doing everything from selling ice cream sandwiches to walking goats at the petting zoo. Since 2008 he’s served as the year-round technical director, building props and sets and, of course, making appearances as King. He even resides in a neighborhood behind the RenFest grounds.

Over time Taylor has watched as fashions have shifted from tights (the ’80s), to Barbarian furs and pirate gear (the ’90s and early aughts), to Wookie and Storm Trooper costumes (now). He’s also witnessed crowds growing from 20,000 people on a packed day 20 years ago, to well over 30,000 a day on average today. But even with well over half a million visitors flocking to his 55-acre village each fall, he wants all to know that “the King has never executed anybody.”

Taylor will reign, he says, “as long as they let me,” although he does believe he’ll announce an heir to the throne by the Fest’s 50th anniversary in 2024. Are you a Rennie? Think you’ve got what it takes? Here are some pointers from the King himself:

Have confidence. “It’s good to be King because, of course, you get to make sure the kingdom is ruled in a benevolent, happy way.”

Start small. “As a young prince, in 1985, I put on a peasant costume and sold turkey legs off the grill.”

Take it easy. “Lift up thy cares! If you have worries or problems, make a toast to them and try to have a good time.”

Have fun. “I was just making an appearance at Schlitterbahn—I had on a 19th-century bathing suit and everything. It was a really good time.”

Strut your stuff. “I have nine outfits for the nine themed weekends. I have my King’s reds, my lederhosen, a druidic ethereal green costume, a Roman Bacchanal leather chest plate with Medusa on it, a pirate costume with a frilly shirt…”

Endure. “I’m wearing about six layers when I’m out in full costume. Maybe that’s the reason I’m the King. I’m the only one dumb enough to wear the heavy stuff year-round.”

Give back. “We work with Houston Rodeo and buy a grand champion turkey each year. I try to get the best one, either the champion or reserve champion, but usually let the child who raised it keep it.”

Have a King’s mindset. “It’s kind of like being Mickey Mouse.”

Originally by Gwendolyn Knapp 9/21/2018. Published in the October 2018 issue of Houstonia

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