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Posted: February 24, 2009 8:28 p.m.

Ye olde goode times

Medieval Times great for families, groups of friends

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The knights advance in the arena with their colors during the two-hour show that features jousting, dressage, falconry and dinner.

For families and groups of friends looking for a slightly different kind of outing than the run-of-the-mill restaurants, malls and movie theaters, the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament offers an evening full of non-stop entertainment and hearty fare.

Many people have a fascination with the Medieval Ages and its tales of damsels in distress, knights in shining armor, and an age of romantic chivalry. But most would probably rather not face the unsavory aspects of those times (Bubonic plague, less-than-stellar hygiene, horrific torture and death sentences).

This sanitized version of the Medieval Ages (think of it as Medieval Disneyland) offers audience members a chance to play with the commercialized accessories of a medieval fantasy and imagine themselves princes and princes, wenches and squires without having to give up any comfort.

A looming stucco castle tower greets visitors as they enter the mall and the waiting area is elaborately designed like a great hall or courtyard, complete with a massive fireplace and, of course, a gift shop.

Attendees are assigned one of six knights to champion and cheer for — Red, Blue, Yellow, Black and White, Red and Yellow and Green — who will battle in a tournament in celebration of an upcoming peace treaty between two kingdoms. Of course, something goes awry as the dastardly Green knight puts into action plans to interrupt the peace treaty. Eventually, the good guys win in the end, and all is set right, after much jousting and fighting.

Though there were many wonderful features, the highlight of the night was, of course, the knights’ feats of strength and skill, such as jousting, spearing a ring with their lances while their mounts went at full speed, and choreographed fights with weapons from long swords to axes to maces. Even though the fighting was choreographed, much like professional wrestling, the audience couldn’t help but be swept up in the excitement.

The audience was also wowed with demonstrations from a falconer and a falcon that swooped and dived overhead and dressage performances that displayed the skill of riders and to finely trained Andalusian stallions that leapt, high stepped and danced like equine ballet dancers.

The food served throughout the show was simple but filling: vegetable soup, chicken, ribs, potatoes and an apple pastry. All eating was done without utensils, presumably to give attendees the Medieval eating experience.

At times, a few of the characters’ lines, particularly those of the princess, the only female character in the show felt canned, like a high-school theater production. To be fair, it must be difficult to keep things fresh with multiple shows a day on the weekends. But by the end of the night, even the most cynical audience member would find themselves cheering along.

Families with young children and large groups of friends will find Medieval Times a great place to get in touch with their inner peasant.

Located at the Discover Mills outlets on Interstate 85, the Duluth Medieval Times first opened in 2006 but recently launched a newly renovated show — a 30 month effort — with a new script, new characters, choreography, dressage elements and soundtrack.

Prices range from $37.95 for children 12 and under to $49.95 for adults. Show times are generally offered at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 11 am. and 8 pm. On Fridays, and 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and 5 p.m. on Sundays. Availability varies, so check with the box office at 1-866-543-9637 or online at www.medievaltimes.com.

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