Big fun in little Sterling, NY

Every summer for six weekends, the little town of Sterling, NY, receives loads of visitors for the Sterling Renaissance Festival at 15385 Farden Road. The festival grounds are converted to the town of “Warwick” in jolly Olde England, and there is entertainment for all. The Festival is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm, and this year the final weekend is August 17th – 18th. There are comedy shows, musical performances (using old instruments), parades, jousting (performed live on horses and semi-realistic, but not bloody), medieval games (such as throwing a tomato at a loud-mouthed fool), souvenir vendors and food/drink for purchase (including the popular roasted turkey legs), as well as the extra food and entertainment options of the Queen’s Tea and the Royal Feast. The vendors offer generally high quality products and items that aren’t easy to find elsewhere. If you like the idea of pretending to slip back in time, this festival will be fun to visit.

For seniors with mobility challenges, be aware the terrain is hilly and not always paved. Handicapped parking and bathrooms are available, but with the size of the fairgrounds and the nature of the terrain, it would be challenging to use a walker or to ride in a hand-pushed wheelchair. Even a motorized wheelchair may offer limited access due to the grassy/rocky nature of some walkways.

If you bring children, there are a few important things of which to be aware. First of all, some of the performances have content ratings, in that they are clearly inappropriate for young children. When you enter, you will receive an event schedule that will list all events and some will be marked as appropriate for older guests only. In addition, some of the content of the other shows may be inappropriate but will go over the heads of most young kids. Middle school-aged children may pick up on some of the humor, so be prepared to explain a few things if you watch a comedy show.

There are little tricks to saving money, but I’m not aware of any way to do the Festival “on the cheap.” Be prepared to spend money if you go. Here are a couple of money-saving tips:

  1. Get on their e-mail list. They will give you a heads up about discounted ticket pricing if you purchase before June 1st. Advance tickets are good for any weekend day of the fair.
  2. If you really love the Festival and plan to go at least six times, get a season pass. That will save you money. Otherwise, a season pass doesn’t really make sense.
  3. Bring food and drinks in your car, but leave them there. No food or drinks are allowed to be brought in to the Festival. However, if you eat and drink right before you go in, and have a snack prepared in the car for when you leave, you will save quite a bit.
  4. Visit all of the vendors before you blow your souvenir budget, and then return to the one thing you really liked. There are lots of unique products throughout the Festival, and if you’re trying to save money and you buy the first thing you see, you won’t have any left over for that really cool item hidden down by the jousting field.

If it’s a really hot day, you’ll feel the need to cool down after leaving the Festival. Air conditioning will work, but if you have time and bring bathing suits, there is also a great beach for swimming at nearby Fair Haven Beach State Park. It would also be a good place to camp if you want to stay overnight.

To cool down without swimming, I would heartily recommend Bev’s Dairy Treat at 60 County Route 89 in Oswego. It’s right by the lake front, so they usually have a cool breeze. I have also heard good things about Big Bo’s at 580-582 Main Street in Sterling.

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