Serious leisure, participation and experience in tourism: authenticity and ritual in a renaissance festival
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This study examined the Texas Renaissance Festival as perceived and experienced by (serious) visitors for whom this was a form of regular, repeated and highly meaningful participation. Specifically, the focus was to gain understanding of the notion of serious leisure as defined by Stebbins, in the context of festivals, and to understand the meanings associated with festival participation. Following a qualitative (constructivism paradigm) research frame, the data were collected through participant observation and 37 in-depth interviews for highly committed tourists to the Texas Renaissance Festival. The collected data were analyzed through Grounded Theory techniques specified by Glaser (1978). In regard to the characteristics of participation, the results indicated that their continuous participation in the Texas Renaissance Festival displays qualities of serious leisure: 1) identification; 2) long-term career; 3) unique ethos; 4) significant personal effort; 5) perseverance; and 6) durable personal benefits. As they become more seriously involved in the festival participation, they tend to be a part of a well-integrated subculture of which prominent values include personal freedom, hedonism, and anti-materialism. The experiences constructed through the serious festival participation were reminiscent of tourism existential authenticity specified by Wang (1999) as two levels: intrapersonal authenticity (gaining ones true self) and interpersonal authenticity (gaining true human relationship). A search of such authentic experiences at the festival seems to be partly driven by the perceived alienation in everyday life. When these aspects were examined from an interpretive and meaning-based approach, attending the festival in a serious manner is not just a simple matter of escaping from the reality (e.g., alienation) of everyday life, but is an active quest for an alternative to their lives at home as many indicated. Thus, the serious participation in a tourism activity such as the Texas Renaissance Festival could be best understood as a dynamic process of attaining existential state of Being in response to diverse sociocultural conditions. Several significant theoretical propositions were made based on the results derived from this study. Additionally, marketing and management implications associated with staging tourism events and festivals were discussed.
Kim, Hyounggon (2004). Serious leisure, participation and experience in tourism: authenticity and ritual in a renaissance festival. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from