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October 24, 2005

1916 Announced Welcomed by SF

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News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 10/25/05 1916 Announcement Welcomed By Sinn Féin
SF 10/25/05 Adams Launches Republican Vision For The Future
IT 10/26/05 S African Intelligence Minister Defends SF
BB 10/25/05 Commissioner Promises 'Fairness'
UT 10/25/05 Loyalist Accused Of Murdering Adair Supporter
BB 10/25/05 Watchtower Demolition Is Halted
UT 10/25/05 Omagh Probe Must Wait, Says Irish Government
UT 10/25/05 New Name For Knock Airport
TB 10/25/05 Tx Ren Fest: Going Medieval


1916 Announcement By Taoiseach Welcomed By Sinn Féin

Published: 24 October, 2005

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh today welcomed the
Taoiseach's announcement that their will be a state
organised commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of the
1916 Rising and the setting up of a 1916 Centenary
Committee to prepare for the centenary. Ó Snodaigh called
for the proposed parade to be an inclusive parade and said
"It should have associated cultural events which would
bring home the ideals and history of 1916 to the whole
population of this island, whether young or old."

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Any state organised
commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916
rising should be inclusive and should involve more than
just a military parade. It should have associated cultural
events in all 32 Counties of Ireland which would bring home
the ideals and history of 1916 to the whole population of
this island, whether young or old.

"It must be remembered that the rising was the result of a
coming together of many groups in Irish society, including
the nationalist, the socialist, the women's movement, the
trade unions and the Irish language activists, to proclaim
the Irish nation for the Irish people and all these groups
must be represented in any future commemorations.

"Irish people are proud of the men and women of 1916 who
proclaimed a 32-County Irish Republic based on the
republican principles of Equalité, Liberté and Fraternité.
They had a vision of a nation where the children were
cherished equally and where the wealth of the country was
for the people of Ireland.

"Obviously their vision has never been brought fully to
fruition. Irish unity is still to be achieved and most of
what was contained in the 1916 Proclamation has never been
fully delivered and in many ways cannot without the
reunification of our country. Sinn Féin is committed to
bringing about exactly the kind of Ireland envisaged in the
Proclamation. That is our primary focus and that is the
difference between us and other parties.

"Sinn Féin has ensured that the men and women of 1916 have
been commemorated annually and that their ideals have been
kept alive and I welcome the fact that Fianna Fáil has now
decided to take part in this process. Our party, nor any
other group have a monopoly on republicanism but if
everybody pulls together we can make Irish Unity a reality
in our lifetime." ENDS


Adams Launches Republican Vision For The Future

Published: 24 October, 2005

As part of the Sinn Féin Cead Blain celebrations, Gerry
Adams this morning published a new book setting out his
vision for the future direction of Irish Republicanism in
the years ahead. The book entitled 'The New Ireland - A
vision for the future' was launched in Conway Mill.

Speaking at the event Mr Adams said:

" This short book is written in an attempt to sketch out a
sense of modern Irish republicanism now and for the future.

Recently Sinn Féin published a book 'Sinn Féin - A Century
of Struggle' which looked at the establishment of the party
in 1905 and its history and development since then.

'The New Ireland - A Vision for the Future' also marks our
100th birthday. It is not a party political manifesto more
a personal statement about the nature of modern Irish
republicanism and its vision for the future.

This book restates our primary political republican
objectives - a united, independent Ireland; an end to
partition; an end to the union with Britain; the
construction of a new national democracy on the island of
Ireland, and reconciliation between orange and green.

The most important principle of Sinn Féin was and is self-
reliance. Only the people of this island can secure our
liberation and mould our society to suit our unique
heritage, our character, our economic needs and our place
in the wider world. That was the core value of the
fledgling Sinn Féin. That is still true today. And from the
beginning, while always asserting that the end of the union
was in the interests of all the people of this island, Sinn
Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists.

The core values of Sinn Fein are reflected in the
Proclamation of the Irish republic in 1916, the founding
document of modern Irish republicanism and a charter of
liberty with international as well as national importance.
In it, the republic guarantees religious and civil liberty;
equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens;
the Proclamation contains a commitment to cherish all the
children of the nation equally. Its anti-sectarianism is
evident in the words "oblivious of the differences
carefully fostered by an alien government, which have
divided a minority from the majority in the past". And at a
time when women in most countries did not have the vote,
the government of this new republic was to be elected by
the suffrages of all her men and women.

These are not just clever words or empty rhetoric. These
are great words, great ideas, which it is our task - our
responsibility - to see implemented. These words are a
promise to every Irish citizen that she and he can share in
the dignity of human kind, as equals with equal
opportunity. That we can enjoy freedom, educate our
children, provide for our families and not exploit our

Those who established Sinn Féin 100 years ago, those who
fought in 1916 and later against the might of the British
Empire, and those who raised the flag of resistance in each
subsequent generation did so in circumstances that differed
and changed as the years rolled past. This is not 1905. It
is 2005. It is the twenty-first century.

If Irish republicanism is to be relevant in modern Ireland,
it needs to be defined and redefined. Republicanism today,
and our dream, our vision of the future, draws on our
historic roots and the rights of the Irish people. It also
reflects our contemporary experience and the inspiration
provided by the heroes of this phase of struggle - people
like Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, Eddie Fullerton and
Sheena Campbell, John Davey and many others.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to
achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from
other Irish political parties.

Our primary political objectives are an end to partition,
an end to the union, the construction of a new national
democracy, a new republic on the island of Ireland and
reconciliation between Orange and Green. But we are not
prepared to wait until we have achieved these goals for
people to have their rights to a decent home, to a job and
a decent wage, to decent public services like health and
education, and a safer, cleaner environment. The big task
facing us while we struggle for these other objectives is
to play a full part in bringing the peace process to
completion. That has to be the priority of all responsible
political parties. That is a difficult and challenging
task. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was the biggest
step forward in this process.

Beyond the Agreement, which is essentially an
accommodation, Irish republicanism has a vision of a new
society, a new Ireland, that is democratic. That is
economic as well as political: a society which is inclusive
of all citizens, in which there is a redistribution of
wealth for the well-being of the aged, for the advancement
of youth, for the liberation of women and the protection of
our children. It foresees a new relationship between these
islands, resting upon our mutual independence and mutual
respect. From the beginning, saving the Irish language from
extinction and reviving our national language has been a
key aim of Sinn Féin. Pádraig Pearse recognised that
without Conradh na Gaeilge there would have not have been a
revolution in Ireland.

Our republicanism has to be about change - fundamental,
deep-rooted change. It has to be about creating the
conditions whereby people are empowered to make that
change. Equality is our watchword. We live in a prosperous
country. There is sufficient wealth in our society to
ensure that no one should want for any of the basics of
life. We have a two-tier health system and a housing
crisis. Our children are being educated in dilapidated and
run-down school buildings. There is no sign of decent
childcare services. At every turn, punitive measures are
taken against the disadvantaged. We are prepared to work
with others who share our vision of a fair and equitable
society that provides real solutions, not broken promises.

Key to achieving this is the hard, tedious, difficult work
of building political strength. By building that strength,
we will build the capacity to move both the British and the
Irish governments and the unionists and to influence the
political agenda.

Sinn Féin is now politically and organisationally stronger
than at any time since the 1920s. We have developed new
approaches. We have taken difficult and risky decisions. We
have demonstrated time and time again a preparedness to go
on the political offensive, to take initiatives and go toe
to toe with our political opponents in the battle of ideas,
as well as in the hard job of building workable political
partnerships. All of these facts give some explanation of
why we are almost perpetually at the centre of a political
storm. Our political opponents, and even those who should
be our allies in the struggle for Irish freedom and peace,
fear our growing electoral strength. It is amazing to watch
the feverish efforts of other parties rushing to claim
their republican and Sinn Féin roots while attacking and
condemning us.

At Fianna Fáil's weekend Ard Fheis the Taouieach announced
that commemorations would take place again this Easter in
O'Connell Street - they should never have been stopped. And
that a special committee is to be set up to ensure that
1916 is properly commemorated. We welcome all of this.

We welcome the fact that Labour and Fianna Fáil and Fine
Gael and the rest want to be republican. The more the
merrier. We have no monopoly on republicanism. What is a
republican if not someone who strives for Irish freedom and
justice and an end to partition?

The success of our party - and the test for all other
parties - has to be about how much change they secure and
how much progress they make in improving the life of
citizens and in achieving national freedom. We also have a
lot of work to do. We don't pretend to have all the

This book seeks to map out the way ahead for Irish
republicans in achieving all of this.

It argues that republicans must use our growing political
strength and mandate to build an island-wide, a nationwide,
mass Sinn Féin movement. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin
cumann in every electoral ward across this island. Our
objective is to bring change right across society on this
island and to entrench equality.

What Sinn Féin is trying to do at this time is
unprecedented. While dealing with the ongoing challenges of
the peace process, we are continuing to build for Irish
unity and independence, at the same time preparing to be in
government in the future. But we want social and economic
change in the here and now. We want equality now. So, we
are also building a political party right across all
thirty-two counties. We are building a campaigning party
and building political strength and alliances with others
to bring about the changes now, by trying to set the
political agenda so that those in government have to
respond, even if they are not happy to do so.

The book examines all of this and looks at the role of
Irish republicanism and the nation; our relationship with
unionism, the European Union and International matters;
women; the Irish language; rural Ireland; and more.

With the developing peace process, growing concern over
globalisation and crisis in Europe, we are at a strategic
crossroads in Ireland. We need to decide on the type of
country we want and what we want its place in the world to
be." ENDS


South African Intelligence Minister Defends Sinn Féin

Susan McKay

Ronnie Kasrils, the South African minister for
intelligence who is visiting the North as a guest of Sinn
Féin, said yesterday he was shocked to hear that the
Taoiseach has been talking about reclaiming republicanism
from those who have "debased" and "abused" it - meaning
Sinn Féin and the IRA.

It was "a most unfortunate statement," he said.

Last evening, Mr Kasrils met the Northern Secretary Peter
Hain, a former anti-apartheid activist, before attending a
"strategies for freedom" rally in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast
with Martin McGuinness.

The DUP yesterday declined Sinn Féin's invitation for Mr
Kasrils to meet the Rev Ian Paisley.

Tonight, Mr Kasrils will address republicans at a rally in
Moy, Co Tyrone. He will also attend a hunger strike
commemoration in Derry with Gerry Adams who is just back
from a visit to South Africa.

"I could never accept that Sinn Féin has debased
republicanism," said Mr Kasrils. "They carried the flag of
republicanism in the most difficult of times. We respect
the Irish Government, but I would say that is sour grapes,
and a sign they are feeling the pressure, with the growing
popularity of Sinn Féin. The Irish struggle is a
particularly heroic one."

Mr Kasrils, a former deputy minister for defence, is on the
ANC's executive, and is a member of the South African
Communist Party. He said he was proud of his "military

He believed in the need for a process of truth and
reconciliation as had occurred in South Africa. He had
taken part in the process. "We detonated a car bomb in
front of the headquarters of the air force in Pretoria - 30
people died and 300 were injured. As part of the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, I met an air force officer who
was blinded during that attack.

"It was the most moving experience for me. He came to see
why we had done it, and he has now dedicated himself to
spreading understanding about the conflict and its

Mr Kasrils said he was optimistic about the peace process:
"There is more to divide people in South Africa than here.
The Irish situation is not intractable."

© The Irish Times


Commissioner Promises 'Fairness'

Northern Ireland's first victims' commissioner has pledged
to perform her new duties with an independent voice.

Bertha McDougall, the widow of an RUC reservist murdered by
the INLA in 1981, made the comments as she spoke for the
first time about her post.

The DUP has welcomed the interim appointment, but Sinn Fein
said it had concerns about her independence.

However, Mrs McDougall said she would ensure everyone was
treated in a "fair and equitable manner".

She told a news conference she would be offering an "open
door" to anyone who wanted to make representations to her.

"I will be wanting to ensure that everyone is treated in a
fair and equitable manner," she added.

Mrs McDougall will be responsible for establishing a new
forum for victims of the Troubles.

An ex-primary school teacher, Mrs McDougall set up the
victims' group, Forgotten Families.

Her appointment as victims' commissioner was announced by
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain on Monday.

"Her experience in working with victims and victims'
support groups will be vital in helping to address the
needs of those who have suffered great personal loss," he

"The government believes that the needs of those who have
suffered so much over the years must get greater
recognition. They must not become the forgotten people."

Mr Hain also said legislation to establish a commissioner
on a longer term basis would be introduced.

The commissioner will look at key areas relating to
services for victims, funding arrangements in relation to
services and grants paid to victims and survivors groups
and individual victims and survivors.

DUP leader Ian Paisley said Mrs McDougall's experiences
"ideally equipped her to champion the needs of victims".

"I hope this appointment will start the process of putting
the needs of victims at the top of the agenda," he said.

Ulster Unionist spokesman Derek Hussey also said he
believed she was an ideal candidate for the job.

"The innocent victims of terrorist violence need an
independent voice who can act as a strong advocate on their
behalf with government and liaise closely with victims'
groups across the province," he said.

However, Sinn Fein assembly member Philip McGuigan said his
party was not satisfied about the extent of Mrs McDougall's

He said the commissioner needed to have the support of all
communities, but must not "reinforce the existing hierarchy
of victims".

SDLP assembly member Patricia Lewsley said her party had
called for a victims' forum to represent diverse concerns,
rather than a single commissioner.

"If government is serious about parity of esteem for all
victims, then it should not be consulting with or seeking
the approval of one political party only for an
appointment," she said.


Anne Boal from the Disabled Police Officers' Association
said she hoped Mrs McDougall would get support from both
sides of the community.

"I would hope that people will meet her and then judge
whether she will do a good job or not," she said.

Mairead Kelly's brother was killed by the SAS at Loughgall
in 1987. She formed the Loughgall Truth and Justice
campaign after the initial inquest into the men's deaths.

She said everyone had to be given a fair chance and people
should not be pre-judged.

The DUP regard the appointment as one of a number of
confidence-building measures for unionists.

The position of victims' commissioner was announced by the
then Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy in a written
statement to the House of Commons in March.

Mr Murphy said the commissioner would play a "pivotal role"
in promoting the interests of those who had suffered.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/24 15:11:03 GMT


Top Loyalist Accused Of Murdering Adair Supporter

A leading loyalist went on trial today charged with
murdering a lieutenant of Johnny Adair during a bitter feud
within the Ulster Defence Association.

By:Press Association

William Mo Courtney, 42, of Fernhill Heights, Belfast, has
denied murdering Alan McCullough, 22, in May 2003.

McCullough`s body was found in a shallow grave, shot
through the head, a week after he was last seen being
driven away from his mother`s home in the Shankill Road
area of Belfast by the accused, Belfast Crown Court was

Mr Courtney also denies further charges of membership of
the Ulster Defence Association and membership of the Ulster
Freedom Fighters.

Opening the non-jury trial before Mr Justice Higgins,
barrister Geoffrey Millar, for the Crown, said McCullough
had been a member of `C` company of the UDA under the
command of Johnny `Mad Dog` Adair.

`C` company had been expelled from the UDA in 2002, as
relationships within the organisation`s command structure
fragmented and there were a number of murder attempts on
various commanders for which `C` company was blamed.

Mr Millar said McCullough, together with his girlfriend and
other members of `C` company and their families were
ordered out of Northern Ireland by UDA leaders and he
settled in Blackpool.

He said: "It is the Crown`s contention that the defendant
William Courtney was a member of the UDA and that he was
one of those who turned on the Adair faction and replaced
Adair as commander of a new `C` company."

The barrister said between February and April 2003,
McCullough made efforts to return to Northern Ireland. His
mother Barbara spoke directly with Courtney on his behalf
and also had conversations with him on his mobile phone.

She passed the phone number on to her son and records would
show that Alan McCullough contacted Courtney by mobile
phone and then returned to Northern Ireland with his
girlfriend early in April 2003.

He initially lived with various relatives before moving in
with his mother in the Shankhill Road area of Belfast on
May 20.

Mr Millar said on the May 26, McCullough was in his
mother`s home at 6pm when he was picked up by the defendant
driving a blue Mitsubishi car.

Evidence would be given that with others they drove to the
Corrs Corner restaurant outside Belfast before McCullough
returned to the house at 10pm. His mother noticed that the
hems of his trousers were covered in muck, as were his

Two days later, McCullough was in the house when he
received a call and had a brief conversation on his mobile
phone and then left he house.

He was seen by his mother and other family members getting
into the same blue Mitsubishi driven by the defendant.

"This was the last known sighting of Alan McCullough
alive," said Mr Millar.

When he failed to return, his mother launched a search,
failing to contact either him or Courtney on their mobile
phones and reported him missing to the police the following

A warrant was issued for Courtney`s arrest and police went
to his home but he was not there.

Two days later he was arrested and twice questioned. He
denied the murder and was eventually released without

A week after the disappearance the police carried out a
reconstruction of the last known movements of the blue
Mitsubishi and the following morning a reader of the Irish
News realised he had seen the car.

Mr Millar said the newspaper reader, known only as witness
A, recalled driving down the Aughnabrack Road outside the
city the previous week and finding his way blocked by such
a blue Mitsubishi and a number of other vehicles.

He was forced to wait until a group of men emerged from a
gateway, got in the cars and drove off.

Mr Millar said after reading about the reconstruction,
witness A returned to the gateway, walked up a track where
he found a derelict building and what appeared to be a body
in a shallow grave. He contacted the police.

Police went to the scene and discovered the body but it was
several days before it was removed.

The body was identified as that of McCullough and post
mortem carried out by the state pathologist Professor Jack
Crane showed he died from a bullet wound to the head.

In total he had been shot three or four times.

Mr Millar said the Crown contention was that Mr McCullough
had died shortly after he had disappeared on May 28 2003.


Watchtower Demolition Is Halted

Work to dismantle an observation tower at the Masonic army
base in Londonderry city centre has been halted.

An Army spokesman blamed people throwing stones, who
attacked the base on Sunday.

Strong winds also made it too risky to deploy cranes on
site. Contractors are to resume work on the tower on

The watchtower is being removed as part of demilitarisation
measures announced by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain
in August.

Army engineers began removing the watchtower on Sunday. A
section of the city's walls was closed off for safety
reasons during the work.

A second observation tower at the base is to be brought
down early next year.

The rest of the base will also be removed, although an
exact date for that has not been given.

Over the next two years, the government also plans to close
the military base at Maydown police station and Rosemount
barracks in the city.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/24 12:01:16 GMT


Omagh Probe Must Wait, Says Irish Government

The Irish government today ruled out a cross-border inquiry
into the Omagh bombing until court proceedings into the
atrocity are completed.

By:Press Association

South Armagh electrician Sean Hoey is currently facing
charges in relation to the Real IRA massacre in August 1998
in which 29 people died.

The Omagh victims group have demanded a probe by the
British and Irish governments into the police handling of
the bombing.

But Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern today told
the families at a 90-minute meeting in Dundalk that the
criminal investigation must take its course before any
public inquiries can be considered.

Mr Ahern`s spokesman said: "The minister fully recognised
the concerns of the families but he has consulted the Irish
Justice Department on the issue and its advice was that any
inquiry is inappropriate while criminal proceedings are

However Mr Ahern offered funding from his department to
assist the Omagh families in running its victims group.

During today`s meeting, Mr Ahern also paid tribute to the
families on their seven-year campaign for justice.

The Omagh victims group has already met the head of the
Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, to back
their plea.

And Irish opposition party leaders have criticised
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern`s government for failing to publish
in full a report it commissioned into Garda intelligence
handling at the time of the attack.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was among those killed
in the Omagh blast, insisted the Irish authorities should
back their campaign in the same way they lobbied for a new
tribunal into the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry.

Speaking after today`s meeting, Mr Ahern said justice must
be seen to be done in relation to the Omagh bombing and the
Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the killing of Dundalk
forestry worker Seamus Ludlow in the 1970s.

"It is vital that the truth must come out in all these
cases," he said. I`m determined to ensure that the full
facts of what happened will emerge."


New Name For Knock Airport

Knock Airport is being re-named Ireland West Airport Knock.

It is part of a new vision for the airport launched by
management today.

Passenger numbers are set to hit 500,000 every year.

By 2020, the aim is to increase that to two million.

Tomorrow marks the twentieth anniversary of the first
commercial flight from Knock.


Going Medieval

Step back in time (and grab a giant turkey leg) at the 31st
Annual Texas Renaissance Festival

Mark Williams

Now that the weather has cooled off considerably and
hurricanes are a fading memory (hopefully…for this year,
anyway), this is a perfect weekend to grab up friends and
family and head off to nearly Plantersville for the Texas
Renaissance Festival -- a Lone Star tradition for over
three decades and the one of the oldest and largest fairs
of its kind in the nation. Transport yourself back to a
simpler time…a really simpler time -- the 16th century, to
be precise; the festival, open from 9AM 'til dark every
Saturday and Sunday through November 20, brings to life the
sights and sounds, events and food of that time so very
long ago.

From the time they popped up from humble origins on the
West Coast in the early to mid 60's, renaissance festivals
have maintained enough growth in the latter part of the
last century to officially become a nationwide pursuit,
turning innumerable homegrown hobbies into cottage
industries while emerging as a genuine entertainment
phenomenon. With dozens of renaissance festivals already
known across the country and more starting up each year,
the seasonal festival circuit employs a large number of
entertainers that have found their own definite niche.

Part of the popularity is that there is a little something
for everyone at the Texas Renaissance Festival: thrill
three time days to the most extreme of sports, the Royal
Joust; get lost in the beauty of the seven gardens of New
Market Village -- which also houses over 300 arts & crafts
and gift vendors and international cuisine at 60 food &
beverage shops. Feeling romantic? Really romantic? There's
two wedding chapels on the festival grounds, along with 21
stages with over 200 performances daily; meet over 3,000
costumed characters daily and cap off your visit to the
past with a nightly display of Royal Fireworks.

ENTERTAINMENT: Just as it was in days of old, live
entertainment is a must at the Texas Renaissance Festival.
See performers such as magician Isaac Fawlkes, burly
minstrel Jim Hancock, medieval comedy with the Ded Bob Sho,
As You Like It, The Great Antone, The Gypsy Guerrilla Band,
Featherstone, Owain Phyfe, Passing Measures, comic
jugglers, friendly neighborhood bard Diane Linn, Stewart &
Arnold, The William Shakespeare Road Company, Quick Silver
Coin Minting, The King's Artillery, Dragonfire Forge, Lord
Sturm, Conrado Alexis Garcia, a demonstration of products
from Try Out Toys, Washing Well Wenches, The Celestial
Circus Renaissance Troop, The Texas Brass Ensemble and the
Gypsy Dance Theatre -- a group of high-spirited, multi-
talented entertainers incorporating music, song, dance and
humor to tap into the muse of the "quintessential Gypsy

See unique acts such as medieval mud fights featuring The
Sturdy Beggars; as in olden days, ye shall see a village
blacksmith and broom maker, along with craftspeople like
Jodi Bove, a woman from New York City who specializes in
the ancient craft of glassblowing -- making for lovely
artwork and custom personal glassware.

Another unique craft shown off at the Texas Renaissance
Festival is the making and use of medieval weaponry.
Valentine Armouries, a Canadian concern, has made weapons
for swords-&-sandals flicks such as Beowulf & Grendel,
Never Ending Story 4, and The 13th Warrior while providing
props for sci-fi shows like Stargate-SG 1. Reps of the firm
will be on hand to display ancient weapons while taking
orders for one-of-a-kind handmade items. Meantime: catch
the comic swordfight antics of the two-person troupe, To
The Hilt, entertaining renaissance festivals audiences for
nearly a decade with a "rare blend of sword skill and

Get a close look at birds you don't see every day -- like
falcons and owls -- with demonstrations from the handlers
from EarthQuest, a non-profit environmental education
organization. By utilizing their experiences and skills,
EarthQuest founders Robby Sinkler and Steve Hoddy enhance
awareness and illustrate the true nature of animals with
live demonstrations of their natural abilities through
trained behavior in a controlled environment. Says Sinkler
and Hoddy: "We feel that our programs bring a sense of
realism to many people that have never had the opportunity
to see these animals in person and we hope it brings them a
little closer to nature."

Along with the wildlife is plenty of medieval music: on
hand is traditional folk band Flying Fish Sailors, along
with talents like Owl Morrison, a versatile performer with
a strong voice and proficiency on the mandolin and viola
that add a rich texture her folk-rock originals, talents
showcased on her CD, Spooky Girl With The Helen Keller
Shoes. Another unique musical act is Tartanic -- a Houston
trio that "takes live performance to heart and creates a
high-energy pulse at 120 beats per minute and beyond" while
filling "much needed niche in Celtic music, taking tunes
out of the session and into the sensational with humor and
theatrics. This is not just music, this is an interactive
spectacle" with bagpipes and drums, shuffling from
traditional to "scorching Samba-driven numbers…"

One of the most enduring group of performers at the Texas
Renaissance Festival is Cantiga, whose name "means 'song'
in the language of Alfonso The Wise -- the 13th century
Spanish 'King of the Three Religions,' whose royal court
was a haven for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish musicians."
It is in this tradition Cantiga is committed to the
"inclusive spirit of improvisation which has flourished
among musicians in cultural crossroads throughout history."

Cantiga came together in the early 70's, when harpist
Martha Gay, fiddler Malcolm Smith and flute and recorder
specialist Bob Bielefeld played the Texas Renaissance
Festival after discovering a mutual interest in "ancient
melodies and a flair for jamming. They were joined in the
80's by cellist Max Dyer, Conrado Garcia and fiddlers Mark
Caudill and Michelle Levy, who moved from Boston to join
the band following the passing of Malcolm Smith in 1996.

The members of Cantiga do their homework to come up with
their medieval melodies…well, Bob Bielefeld does most of
the heavy lifting when it comes to research, spending "long
hours in early music libraries at Rice, Cornell, UT and
Eastman" while copying centuries-old sheet music. "Then
it's a slow process of figuring out how to decipher" the
indecipherable scratchings of musicians who belong to an
age long gone. Band members then "add pretty chords, a
shameful modern imposition to an early music purist, but
necessary for a folk group; then, "every year in November
and May we go into the studio to try to get a few new
keepers for the next project. It's a matter of hoping for a
lucky take. The tunes are always played differently each
time so it's like jazz in that sense." Check out Cantiga at
the Texas Renaissance Festival and discover their
recordings at

Another medieval music ensemble is Istanpitta: a group of
musicians from the Friendswood area who perform music of
the Middle Ages. Istanpitta is a favorite at fairs and
festivals and small concert venues, including Jones Hall in
Houston, and have also performed at the Texas Medieval
Association Conference and this year's Indianapolis Early
Music Festival; the ensemble is usually made up of 3 to 5
musicians playing period instruments like recorders,
transverse flutes, medieval harp and bagpipes.

Another musical act unique to the Texas Renaissance
Festival is Cast In Bronze, which shows off the haunting
beauty of the carillon -- a medieval tower structure that
was used to hold a collection of musical bells, which are
suspended in a immobile manner and the clappers are
"connected to a mechanical keyboard played with fists and
feet. Expert playing requires musical dexterity, strength
and endurance, an art form that is rarely seen and slowly
but surely disappearing from the planet. Today, many
carillons have fallen into disrepair or are simply no
longer played because of lack of funding or interest."

At the Texas Renaissance Festival, the carillon is "played
by a silent and masked 'spirit' that appears only to
breathe life into the instrument for the performance." A
one-man show, Cast In Bronze has performed for the late
Pope John Paul II and at presidential inaugurations, Walt
Disney World's Epcot Center in Orlando, at other
renaissance festivals around the nation and on NBC's Today

A Houston area band, Wyndnwyre, performs traditional
instrumental and vocal music from the Celtic countries of
Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Founding
member/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Bill Klecka has
performed bluegrass and Celtic music in Houston for over
three decades while Mark Johnson's "flute playing soars in
a class of its own and his improvisational guitar
accompaniment adds a driving force to the band's sound."
The group's third member, Celtic harpist Therese Honey, has
played concerts and festival around the world while
teaching workshops around the country. Wyndnwyre's latest
album is 2005's Conversations.

GARDENS: Take a few moments for yourself (or with that
special someone) and enjoy nature with the seven garden
located on the festival grounds. There's the Fons Florida
Aeterna Water Garden -- a 2200 square foot garden
constructed with Venetian architecture for a serene
setting. In tribute to the War of the Roses, there's a 2800
square foot rose garden much like the one commissioned by
King Henry VIII. White columns and Italian Cypress trees
surround The Roman Bascilica Roman Garden -- originally
erected by the Romans as a temple to Aphrodite. "A
wonderful place to dream" can be found in Titania's Bower
English Garden -- a 4500 square foot English garden.
Meantime, The Magic Garden Fantasy Garden features six
sanctuaries for rest and revitalization. Each sanctuary's
theme is represented by its flora: bromeliads for health,
roses for romance, orchids for beauty, azaleas for
happiness, freshly cut flowers for wealth, and the vine
goddess for wisdom.

SHOPPING IN THE MIDDLE AGES: Back in ye days of olde, the
town village served as man's first shopping mall. Things
haven't changed that much: Dad still has his eye on that
new weapon while Mom just has to a new washboard. But
you're more likely to find something a little more fun and
unique at the shoppes inside the Texas Renaissance
Festival. Vendors include Agate Wind Chimes, Almond Shoppe,
Artcarve, Ashley Photographers, Baubles & Bangles,
Bittersweet Armory, Boss Wench, Fortune Telling & Charms,
The Frock Shoppe, H & H Collectibles, Done With Mirrors,
Gaelyn Bram Jewelry, Nottingham Wood Art, Red Castle
Leather Works, Blue Planet, La Perfume Parlour, Ladies in
Braiding, Chain Mail Designs, The Gem Cutter, Hearts
Delight Clothiers, Mystic Stones, Nagle Forge & Foundry,
Gilligan's Island, Penny's Magic Garden, Glass Mountain
Studios, McCoy's Armory, Greenman Games, Guttenberg Press,
Hats By Rebecca, Gyldanscript, Gypsy Jewelry, Copper
Cottage, Crowning Glory, Crystal Palace, Cymbala, Lion's
Den, Rose & Crown Pottery, Sacred Earth Clay Works, Jiva
Silk Originals, Pottery by Mark Jaramillo and Morrisette
Pottery. Shoppes such as Mariposa offers art from around
the world and "treasures from distinct corners of the
globe" while House Morningstar deals in historical clothing
and accessories, pewter ware and leather goods. Arkansas'
Hollow Earth Sword Works gets into the spirit of the Texas
Renaissance Festival by offering up the finest wooden
swords in the world. "We have reinvented the wooden sword,"
says craftsman Steven Archote, "blending pure function and
sleek styling to produce a superior practice sword that is
beautiful and balanced, yet can withstand the rigors of
serious sparring."

Hollow Earth also makes the finest -- and only -- authentic
fully-functioning all-wood crossbow with lever-trigger and
hand wrought bowstring. For wearing your sword at the
ready, Archote offers a full line of leather belts, sword
frogs, back slings, baldrics and bracers. "We believe that
our years of research and test-fighting, and our fanatical
attention to quality and design, have prepared us to build
the finest wooden swords in the world."

Other unique merchants featured at the Texas Renaissance
Festival include Bamboo Friends, Dragon Studios, Heirloom
Jewelry, Medieval Metal, Elegant Edibles, Excalibur
Leather, The Enchanted Cottage, Authentic Wardrobe, The
Royal Fan Shoppe, Fellowship Foundry, Old World Family
Names, Big Time Jewelry, Caricatures by Sir Harry,
Legendary Candles, Lost Island Trading, Bald Mountain
Leather & Moccasins and Ballena Bay Pewter: one of the
earth's earliest metals, pewter has been worked by the
ancient Greeks, Romans and Asians; the English restored the
dignity of pewter and incorporated it into their daily
lives during the days of the Renaissance.

Located in Tucson, Ballena Bay Pewter uses the highest of
grades available in the marketplace today: 92 percent tin,
6 percent antimony and two percent copper. Ballena Bay
Pewter uses all the traditional methods for creating pewter
-- including hand casting, hand spinning, raising and
plannishing. During the Texas Renaissance Festival, Ballena
Bay Pewter is displaying dozens of pewter products of all
different sizes, shapes and genres.

Feeling like Frodo? Or perhaps you want to look like one of
the knights of King Arthur's Round Table. Or you're really
serious about the ongoing game of Dungeons N' Dragons
happening in your rumpus room; whatever the case may be,
check out Lord Entropy's Armour & Leather, a Houston-based
enterprise that can take you back in time in a costume that
can be custom made to your specifications -- including
"fetish ware." 'Nuff Said. Go by Lord Entropy's Armour &
Leather at the Texas Renaissance Festival or visit their
location at 15534 West Hardy. 1-800-895-6931.

FOOD & DRINK: Slay your appetite at The Texas Renaissance
Festival, which, through the years, has become know the
world over for the quality and variety of its culinary
delights. Feeling famished? Munch on a giant fire roasted
turkey leg or a scrumptious Scottish egg, Steak-on-a-Stake,
spicy fajita tacos, tasty empanadas, handmade fudge &
pastries and ripe and juicy fruit fresh from the King's
Orchards. Whether it be called grog, mead or ale, the Texas
Renaissance Festival's 14 pubs offer a selection of
domestic and imported beer, along with fine wines and
frozen margaritas. Uh, did they have margaritas in the
Middle Ages?

THEME WEEKENDS: Roman Bacchanal, held on October 22 and 23,
is described as "the ultimate toga party," while All
Hallows Eve, happening on October 29 and 30, is a time for
ghosts and goblins celebrate the scariest of holidays with
a costume contest and prizes. Find yourself transported to
Scotland during the Highland Fling -- a wild weekend of
"dancing, singing and drinking" happening November 5 and 6;
Next up is a celebration of Spain and the discovery of the
New World during Glorias de Espana on November 12 and 13.
Finally, the holiday season is ushered in with plenty of
"16th century grandeur" -- and a visit from a certain jolly
someone -- during Celtic Christmas on November 19 and 20.

GAMES & RIDES: There's plenty of medieval fun for even the
littlest peasant at the Texas Renaissance Festival, with a
variety of games and wonders with human-powered rides and
authentic games of skill. Among the fun: a maze, archery
and axe throwing demonstrations, candle making, carriage
rides, a petting zoo, elephant and camel rides, carousels
and swings, Jacob's Ladder, The Crystal Mine, pony rides,
sand art, star throwing demonstrations, ring toss and
working with wax -- just to name a few. Rides and games are
separate from the admission price, with most priced between
$2 to $5 a person.

SCHOOL DAYS: History comes alive with an exciting new event
for interactive learning at the Texas Renaissance Festival.
School Days allows students to step back in time to see up-
close the "explosive rebirth of culture, art, science and
literature of the Renaissance Period. Hundreds of costumed
characters lead you into laughter and learning as all of
Europe pays homage to Queen Katherine on her birthday.
Students will meet the kings and queens of three countries,
William Shakespeare and Spanish conquistadors."

Students also get to see "jousting and period dances with
King Henry VIII and his queen" while learning the history
of arms and armor. Artists and actors dressed in period
costumes "illustrate the technological advances and
discoveries of the renaissance age through demonstrations
in pottery, glass blowing, blacksmithing, armor making, and
other diverse arts and trades of this amazing period. Home
schoolers welcome. Reservations required. For more
information on School Days, call festival education
coordinator Julie Cohen Smith at 1-800-458-3435, extension

TICKETS: $21 for adults at the gate, $10 for children ages
5 through 12 and can also be found at a nearby location of
Woodforest National Bank. Tickets to the King's Feast and
various wine & beer tasting events are available from The
Merchant Prince at 1-800-224-0761.

DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 105 West approximately 20 miles to
Plantersville; then turn left onto FM 1774 and go 6 miles
to the Festival entrance. Free parking, $5 camping fee…

May ye and yours hath thee a wonderful time! And,
seriously, grab a giant turkey leg; you'll be glad you did…

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