Location: 633 North 130th St, Bonner Springs, KS 66012. The festival is held next to Sandstone Amphitheatre; there are signs to help you get there at the Bonner Springs exit from I-70 and off of State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas.
Dates: Weekends, September 3 – October 16, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They’re also open Columbus Day (Monday, October 10) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(I recommend skipping Columbus Day. It’s known as “All Thieves Day” at the festival, so vendors won’t have their best wares out. Most attendees are local students brought by their school districts, and, since many of the shows are audience-participation, you won’t be able to see all of the shows. After the kids leave (by 3 p.m. or so), the festival’s pretty dead. It’s definitely not the best day to go and enjoy the fair.)
Cost: Depends on your age and the currently running promotions (they had a deal where you could get two-for-one tickets for bringing items for Harvesters for the first three weekends, for instance). Ticket prices are available on their Web site: http://kcrenfest.com/tickets.html
Web site: http://kcrenfest.com/index.html
I’ll admit it: I love RenFest. I’ve gone almost every year since it started in 1976, and I’ve watched it grow and evolve since childhood. We’ve taken Peanut since he was in the womb, and we took Sprout to the fair for her first trip this year. We are, in short, RenFest fans.
Peanut started saying “wow” the moment we passed through the front gates. He was amazed by the swirl of activity and the whirl of colorful costumes around him. He “wowed” more as we watched the parade go by, and additional “wows” were heard throughout the day as we walked around the grounds. Despite his vision impairment, the festival was a hit with our little boy.
The Children’s Realm was a high point of Peanut’s day. They have play equipment for children, including a traditional play set, a pirate ship play set and a wooden dragon with a wavy walking surface. There are free crafts for little people to do with help: children can make a magic wand and test it with a real wizard, or they can make God’s eyes (or both!). There’s a special stage with child-friendly performances, and many of the characters come to the area specifically to interact with the kids (the king, for instance, came to tell a story on the stage while we were there). The ground in this area is very uneven, so you’ll want to keep close by your kiddos as they explore; on busy weekends, the kids can be kind of pushy on the equipment, too, which made it challenging for our little guy.
There are all sorts of things to see and do at the festival. There are hands-on activities (some free, some not), such as games and dipping your hands in wax; there are performances, including birds of prey from a bird sanctuary in Missouri–the birds fly over your head as you sit in the audience–and numerous musical acts; there are tons of in-costume and in-character performers; and each weekend has a theme that includes special activities. You don’t have to spend a lot of money once you’re in the gates to have a great time, although there are certainly tons of things to spend your money on if you wish to.
I don’t know how good the festival is in general for blind/vi children, although my son definitely enjoyed it. The ground is very uneven due to natural erosion. On weeks where it’s rained, the ground can be a virtual mud pit that sucks off your shoes (I speak from experience). There are many different surfaces to walk on, and it can be easy to trip or fall if you’re not careful. I think the festival would be miserable to navigate in a typical wheelchair, although I did see people attempting it; the powered versions seemed to work better. If you’re not up for a walking challenge, RenFest is definitely not for you.
Food and drink are expensive inside the festival: a bottled soft drink costs $3, and a bottle of water costs $2 this year. You can get your hand stamped at the gate to reenter if you want to go to an area restaurant, however, and return to the festival afterwards.