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Knights and pirates and fairies ... oh, my!

The Oregon Renaissance Festival is about to come roaring back into Hillsboro, and organizers are expecting a grand return.Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - One of the Oregon Renaissance Festivals most popular events -- brave knights in armor jousting on horseback -- will be be featured twice each day.

“We’re here for the second season, and hoping to make it bigger and better,” said Wanda Carr, general manager of the festival that effectively offers visitors a chance to “travel back in time” to get a glimpse of what life might have been like in the 16th century.

The Renaissance Festival takes the form of a 16th century European village, which has been set up in the center of the Washington County Fair Complex.

“It’s a great community event and we’re certainly pleased to have them here,” said Washington County Fair Complex manager Leah Perkins-Hagele. “The festival provides a great option for family entertainment and fun for six weeks. It’s a great benefit to add another high-caliber community event to the fair complex and to our area.”

In addition to horses and wagons, the fair complex will be filled with wandering minstrels, joking jesters and jugglers, maidens, magicians, acrobats, comedians, pirates and fairies — all dressed in Renaissance-era clothing.

Even Queen Elizabeth will put in an appearance now and then.

Last year was the inaugural season for the unique festival, and, learning lessons from 2013’s snags and successes, organizers have tweaked the lineup of events. One change will be in the timing of the festival’s opening.

For 2014, the festival will begin a week earlier than it did last year, starting Aug. 16 and running through Sept. 21.

One intriguing addition will be the “Royal Living Chess Match,” a live, 3-D chess tournament in which actors are in the role of the chess pieces with the chess board painted on the ground.

“Each square will have players on board,” Carr explained, “with the drama behind the queen pursuing a new champion every day. It will be a battle to test wills. It’s a very entertaining show that includes some terrific and quality sword fighting on the board.”

In addition, a group of chess whizzes from a local club — the Hillsboro Chess Odyssey — will be on hand at the festival every day, playing chess on traditional boards and bantering with the audience.

Another unique new feature will be a four-ton musical instrument called the “Carillon bells.”

Thirty-five bells

“It’s an amazing, huge instrument with 35 large bells being played by a pulley system,” said Carr. “The musician sits at a keyboard and it’s a beautiful, orchestrated performance of bells that creates a ‘Phantom of the Opera’-like sound.”

The festival will also add a pirate act this year.

“We’ll have an off-Broadway act with pirates, music, improv and action-filled sword fighting,” Carr said. Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Wandering fairies are among the unique attractions to be discovered at the Oregon Renaissance Festival, which returns to the Washington County Fairgrounds for six weeks starting Aug. 16.

One of the most popular activities from last year will return, with two live jousting performances by knights in armor staging dramatic competition, mostly on horseback, every day the festival is open.

In addition to the thrills and fun, the festival is expected to provide a boost for the local economy by providing seasonal, part-time work for hundreds of people. Last year, approximately 500 were hired to work as actors and actresses, stagehands, artisans, ticket-takers and security personnel, and Carr anticipates the festival will need even more employees this season.

The positive economic impact the festival is bringing to the community has not escaped the attention of local officials.

“This festival is a great opportunity for our community to welcome visitors from near and far,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey. “It’s also a unique way for our young people to gain work experience, while learning about the past.”

Perkins-Hagele added that the festival provides a new revenue stream for the fair complex, which helps support maintenance and other enhancements at the site.

“It definitely brings in revenue to the fairgrounds that we are able to put back into the facility,” Perkins-Hagele said.

In a bid to draw more people to the festival this year, organizers have set up a new venture to help spread the word.

“Starting Aug. 7, tickets will be for sale through Walgreens, and they will offer deep discounts on advance tickets,” Carr said. “Most Walgreens in the metro area will be selling tickets to the festival.”

Carr added that organizers are optimistic about the prospects for the festival’s second season in Hillsboro, and she believes the public will be pleased with all the changes.

“It’s a feast of entertainment as well as food and drink,” Carr said. “We’re adding more fun to the party.”