More than two decades ago, Bobby Rodriguez had an idea to take South Florida back to the Middle Ages.
"I thought I had come up with this unique idea. I thought I was a genius," he recalls. "And I didn't know they already did this all over the country."
"This" is a renaissance festival, at which actors portray monarchs, knights, falconers and alchemists for crowds eager to fill their bellies with turkey legs and beer. So Rodriguez traveled the country to gather ideas for his first event. Since then, Rodriguez, 66, has organized the Florida Renaissance Festival every year, and the 22nd edition is taking place in Deerfield Beach. The festival will run weekends through March 16, and then goes to Miami, where it will run for three weekends, from March 29 to April 13.
Besides offering traditional attractions such as jousting, Celtic music and Irish dancers, the festival will embrace a different theme every weekend, including "Game of Thrones," pirates and Saint Patrick's Day.
"Unlike any other festival, this one is really engaging," Rodriguez says. "You can get involved as much as you'd like. The other thing is that you're traveling back in time 500 years."
Attendees can practice their aim by throwing medieval weapons at a wall, and enter a daily costume contest. Winners of the contest will receive a certificate and a souvenir, such a T-shirt or a mug.
"Going to the Renaissance Festival is like going to the movies: You forget your problems, and people love that," Rodriguez says. "I've always said that you can explain and explain, but until you actually experience it, you have no idea what it is about."
The festival will run from 10 a.m. until sunset Saturdays and Sundays through March 16 at Quiet Waters Park, 401 S. Powerline Road, in Deerfield Beach. Admissions is $8 to $20 for adults, and free for children ages 5 and under. Go to Ren-Fest.com.