This year will be the 11th season with John Behr as King Henry at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. He has been with the Renaissance Festival for over three decades since he was 11 years old and has continued to participate each year since. The Minnesota show is the only one in which he is a permanent fixture, but he will visit other shows such as the Kansas Renaissance Festival for their last two weekends.
John Behr was not always king of the Renaissance! At 11 years old he tagged along on his friend’s audition, having no interest whatsoever in being a part of the festival himself. While waiting for his friend, John was entertaining the people around him, and after overhearing these comments someone approached him to audition. He was cast and began his Festival career as a hawker in Witch Wood. Shortly there after, he joined the Royal Court and was a part of that group for two years before becoming the Prince. John stayed in the prince role for two decades because he loved the role, the Prince is known for being a bad boy and flirt who was in charge of bringing everyone into the fun. He never particularly wanted to be king because of the heightened responsibility compared to the prince and difference of the role. But he did eventually accept the position as King Henry and is still enjoying it eleven years later!
While acting as king, Behr is kept extremely busy. Visitors’ first opportunity to see him is the greeting at the front gate, where he and others at the Renaissance officially open the show and welcome guests into the realm. Throughout the day, he makes stops and appearances at scheduled special events like Feast of Fantasy while also making time to interact with patrons thought the Festival. After a full day of ruling his kingdom, the king will then close the show by saying goodbye at the gate as it closes. John’s job as king does not end when the Festival closes; he is also involved with charity. King Henry makes appearances on the Children’s Hospital in-house TV show, as well as visiting the children in the hospital.
Behr continues to be King Henry at the Renaissance Festival because of the wonderful interactions he has each day with the patrons. He shares that one of his greatest experience as king was when a family whose 17 year old daughter had cancer approached the Queen. The daughter wanted more than anything to be Queen for a Day but had already used her ‘make a wish.’ The Royal Court came together and made her queen, even getting her dad to dress up in costume when he had previously refused! The daughter passed away at age 18 but the family continues the legacy that began that day at the Renaissance. The father is a guard, the mother is in the guard encampment, and the girl’s brother is the King’s squire. Behr felt honored to be a part of that magical day, and remains king to continue making these special connections for visitors.
When John is not acting as our king, he is a Digital Marketing Strategist. He has worked for some of the world’s leading brands by helping them realize the full potential of digital marketing. John shares that working at the Festival has improved his professional life. Utilizing and building his improv skills have improved his ability to read his audience, which helps him create work that better resonates with his clients. For his full time job, the busiest time of year is from the beginning of the year all the way up until the Festival but he continues to come back to the Renaissance year after year simply because he loves improving the day of each visitor he meets. The festival isn’t just a ‘job’ for John; it is a labor of love. John points out that people come to the Festival to enjoy themselves, and as King Henry he has the wonderful task of helping them forget their stressful lives and fully enjoy the fantasy kingdom surrounding them. When asked to describe his time as King, John says:
It has been an honor and privilege to work with a festival filled with some of the finest entertainers and actors, and a truly amazing audience to entertain. The last ten years as King have been absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to see what wonderment, adventure and joy the next 10 years bring! The magic of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, its entertainment and our great audience brings me back year after year… For me, there is no greater magic or joy than seeing the smile that lights up a child’s face when they meet the King and Queen.”