Jeff Hiller, one of the owners of the Castle of Muskogee, answers questions about how the castle came to be.
What was its inspiration for building the castle?
Thirty years ago, I had a children’s Montessori School on North Main Street in Muskogee, Oklahoma. During the summer, we sold fireworks to raise money for the school. When we outgrew that space, I purchased the largest Elks Lodge in the state as a fireworks showroom. We later expanded it, surrounding it with walls, towers, and crenelations to create a 37,000-square-foot castle.
Why did you open the castle for various festivities?
I visited a Renaissance Faire ten years before with my family. We had such a great time that I decided to try a Renaissance Faire in Oklahoma. When the Renaissance Festival grew, we added other events at Halloween and Christmas, as well as a Zombie Run and a Boars Head Feast.
Which festivities are the most enjoyable? Which involves the most work?
All of the festivals are great fun but they also require a tremendous amount of work in preparation. It's a good thing we have a dedicated staff and cast to assist with putting it together! The most enjoyable, besides opening the gates for excited visitors, is when the merchants and acts arrive in the spring. They bring so much joy and ideas from all over the country—and sometimes from Europe.
What would surprise readers about you?
Having been a Montessori teacher, I am a lover of history. During the Renaissance Festival, most of the characters are actual historical figures. You may ask extensive details about their backstory and they are happy to share. They are also funny and love to entertain.
What are your hobbies?
Our hobbies obviously include Renaissance dress attire and swordplay. For some true downtime, however, we go somewhere tropical with the family or head to the slopes to ski.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the Castle?
Favorite: The Castle truly has something for everyone.
Least favorite: When an event comes to an end, we have to say good-bye to our amazing cast and crew.
What are your hopes for the future and for the Castle?
We hope to keep the castle open and operating for future generations.
The Castle invites you to join the festivities of the 25th Annual Oklahoma Renaissance Festival held Saturdays, Sundays and Memorial Day from May 1 through June 6. Visit OKCastle.com for a schedule of events.