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A Renaissance-themed eclipse at a southern Indiana airport

A man dressed as a knight wears special glasses to look at the sun during an eclipse.
Justin Hicks
Performers dressed in full armor took a break from combat exhibitions to don modern protective glasses and gaze at the sun during the total solar eclipse on Monday.

Millions of Americans saw the eclipse on Monday, but visitors at one local airport in south central Indiana stargazed at what organizers say is the country’s only eclipse-based renaissance fair.

Outside the Columbus Municipal Airport Monday afternoon, the clamor of propellers and small jets was replaced with knights jousting and witches wailing. There was even a real trebuchet launching t-shirts into a crowd of spectators.

But the real star of the show was the sun. It was scheduled to be upstaged by the moon at just about 3 p.m. on Monday, the keynote of the “Eclipsing the Renaissance” festival.

“Feels kind of like… I know it’s just science but it feels kind of magical,” said Acrobat Maylissa Quinn while setting up a giant metal spinning ring on top of a pole she called her lollipop. “It’s very exciting to be here for it, but also getting to be like a performer for it, it’s really cool, it’s very exciting.”

Quinn said this was her first time seeing a total eclipse, and also her first time doing so while performing at a renaissance fair.

An acrobat performs.
Justin Hicks
Maylissa Quinn warms up on a device she calls a "lollipop" — a metal ring on a pole that spins as she twirls in mid-air.

“It was definitely very interesting that they were like, ‘we are going to do a Renaissance themed event.’ I’m like, ‘that is so cool, but why?’”

The only one who can answer that question is Brian Payne, director of the Columbus Municipal Airport.

“Well, everybody else is doing food trucks and music right? So we were thinking, how can we be unique, really not only across Indiana but I think the entire United States. We’ve not found another Renaissance festival happening on the eclipse,” Payne said.

He said when his team floated the idea, they started doing research. They found out there’s loads of renaissance artwork. So, to them, it seemed like a promising sign.

A group of women in Renaissance clothing wearing special protective glasses.
Justin Hicks
A group of women in Columbus said they came specifically because the event was both an eclipse viewing party and a Renaissance fair.

Payne’s team lined up performers doing everything from swallowing fire to falconry. They also got vendors and more than 100 volunteers to help pull it off. He said tourists responded positively to the whole “renaissance” angle.

“In fact we’ve got an entire charter bus group of 70-year-old women from Lexington, Kentucky who found out it was a renaissance festival and were like ‘We’re getting all our friends together, we’re going to charter a bus, we’re coming up,’” he said.

The weather was perfect and hundreds — maybe even a few thousand — people showed up. Everyone was enjoying the shows. Then, about 30 minutes before totality, people started looking up. The moon charted its course across the sun.

The sky grew darker and the world took on an eerie sepia-toned light. Then right on time, at 3:04 p.m. the moment arrived. Where the sun was a moment before now stood a perfect white fiery ring in the sky.

A total solar eclipse.
Justin Hicks
The total solar eclipse as seen from Columbus, Indiana.

Knights, fairies, pirates and just normal modern people alike erupted in cheers and screams. Kiran Madduri stood on the edge of the crowd with his wife and son Akshay in utter amazement.

“Wow! Absolutely beautiful man. Do you see it! And there is a star! Wow,” he said.

People reacted in different ways. Some were quiet. Some were trembling, still sputtering after the sun came back. Sally Gilbertson, who drove down from Chicago said she was deeply moved.

“That was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. And I definitely had tears streaming down my eyes. This world is beautiful and wonderful and we don’t know enough about it,” Gilbertson said.

But the reverence soon passed. The swords started clanging again and the acrobats were swallowing fire again and the world seemed to be well… mostly right again.

“It was amazing and to be in this renaissance fair on top of it has been really fun. Great job Columbus Indiana. I mean, I raise my flagon to you!” Gilbertson said.

Justin is LPM's Data Reporter. Email Justin at jhicks@lpm.org.

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