Yesterday, we went to Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This is my favorite activity in the summer. We go once a summer since it is a bit of a haul to get there. It’s got dress up, tasty food, live music, jousting, drama, and general mischief. I think I’ve gone for the past six years and I can’t wait to go again.
I have probably expounded on my love of playing dress up and Ren Faire is no exception. Since it is a Renaissance faire, generally Renaissance or Medieval garb is typical for costumes. Of course, most people don’t come in costume so don’t feel like you have to do it. Each weekend, there is a theme. We went on Steampunk weekend, but there is also pirate weekend, fantasy weekend, and more. People do take liberties with costumes. I saw Waldo from Where’s Waldo this week. But hey, costumes are costumes. It’s fun to see people’s creativity. One guy was a satyr; he had built a horse’s back that he attached to his body. It was rather incredible. Over the years, I’ve seen people build armor from beer boxes or even beer cans. Rather neat.
For Steampunk, it was especially neat since it’s an aesthetic that I adore. Also, I tend to use Victorian garb a lot more than Renaissance with the historical reenactments in Chicago. People had amazing brass contraptions and incredible animal companions. One woman had a giant stuffed octopus on her back. One guy had made a giant skull to wear as a hat. We wore our Steampunk outfits with our tea holsters. Always have to be ready for tea time.
I had a wonderful Maker moment. One vendor was selling leather pouches with whirling lights on them. Very neat but expensive. It was gratifying to look at it and realize that I could probably build something like that with my adventures with electronics. I’m going to up the ante. Huzzah!
But there’s definitely a lot more to Ren Faire than dress up. There are many shows throughout the day. You can follow Queen Elizabeth and her court around the park. There’s a story line there but I’ve only caught pieces of it. I think it goes all day. I love watching the incredibly elaborate costumes. We hung out briefly in the Noble’s glen and had some delightful interactions. This time a nobleman told me that my fiancé needed gentlemen lessons. Teehee.
Other entertainment includes, Barely Balanced, an acrobatic group that have fun with knives. There’s Adam Winrich who does wonderful things with a whip that you can only imagine…by which I mean make music and light it on fire. In past years, there was a lovely silks act in a foresty glen. It’s fairly magical. It’s not Circo Cheapo but it’s still wondrous in the setting. I didn’t see it set up this year but there are appeared to be silks in a different part of the festival. Sadly, we did not see the act. There are also various musicians throughout the Faire.
And there are multiple jousts. It’s the whole deal. Men ride on horses in armor and battle each other. There are smaller competitions like skewering a ring with a lance. But they do try to knock each other off horses. It’s pretty sweet. And there are storylines that may be tied to the Queen’s. Honor and mischief all abound. The armor is critical to it. One year, we watched a horse buck off his knight who slammed into the wooden festival. Thank G-d for the armor. And to the actor’s credit, he played it off well, wandering around as if he were stunned. (I hope it was just an act).
There are also fun things to do besides watch shows. Our personal favorite is this jumping ride. You get put into a harness and you can jump up and down on a trampoline like thing. You get to fly rather high over the park. If you are not wearing a corset, you can even do flips high in the air. It’s the best thing in our humble opinion. There are also places where you can practice archery with bows or crossbows. Spectacularly, I managed to shoot a cross bolt straight away from me and managed to have it bounce back. I have skills. Also, you can ride an elephant or a camel. And there was a petting zoo in years past. And it had a lemur.
And there is tasty food. I love my chocolate covered banana and chocolate covered cheesecake. There are pasties, fish and chips, and so much more. And sassafras. Which is like root beer but better.
This time, we tried RenQuest. It’s a Renaissance LARP or Live Action Role Playing game. We were on a mission to figure out what was behind a plague in the Faire. We ran around talking to people, fulfilling tasks, and solving riddles and puzzles. It was pretty fun. It’s not my favorite thing at the Faire but we had enjoyed. The best part was when we had to distract the enemy so our rogue could steal an item. We asked to see their accounting books. Nothing gets them like accounting.
That’s Ren Faire in a nutshell. But you have to go to really appreciate it. Note that it’s not cheap. The vendors have amazing wares but they are expensive. But much of it is handmade. The booths aren’t cheap either (cost 3-10 dollars) but you can pick and choose.
Go and have fun. I can’t wait to go again next year.