Sunday, August 05, 2012

Huzzah for the Renaissance Faire

UntitledThe Bristol Renaissance Faire was not on my radar at all until a colleague told me how much she and her boyfriend enjoyed the event.

So today we drove one hour north to the Illinois-Wisconsin border with Jay and Kate and their three children--game as usual for any adventure we suggest. We arrived shortly after the fair - I mean, faire - opened at 10, and the grassy parking lot was already filling up with cars. 

We paid our admission (about $50 for the family, including a coupon discount) and headed in, where we immediately went on sensory overload. The costumes, the faux Old English accents, the smells of cooking food, incense, horse poop and dust. Admission covers the cost of the entertainment, which included a fire whip stuntman, short plays, acrobats, trained falcons, jousts and plenty of bawdy fare that we stayed away from given the small children with us. However, even though we did our best to arrive at one of the dozen stages in time for a scheduled show, the day's best moments were unplanned. At one point an elaborate parade marched through, heralding the arrival of "Queen Elizabeth," and some of the participants surprised Kate and my girls with fresh flowers. Faire regulars were involved in elaborate roll play debates, arguing fictional points about land rights or engaging one another in duels. Forest sprites climbed trees. Pirates laid traps. Later in the day, we wandered into the royal court and a finely dressed lady beckoned Ada and Zoe over. She indicated she'd just returned from abroad with a box full of fine gems. She opened a brass box and offered the girls a "precious jewel" to keep. 

Chocolate crepe with strawberry ice cream and fresh berries
What wasn't included in the admission was...everything else. There were shops selling costumes and occult books and magic wands and soap and weapons and whatnot. There were food stalls hawking barbecued turkey legs and brats and ice cream crepes and pickles on a stick. And there were plenty of "thrill rides," all human powered. 

Zoe and Ada loved it. And Josh and I loved their utter lack of whining. Toward the end of the day Ada asked for one of the floral and ribbon wreaths many attendees were wearing and we agreed to buy her the $12 souvenir. Zoe wanted a costume or magic wand, but because neither could be procured for less than $30, she cheerfully headed home empty-handed. And thanked us for taking her.

I can't imagine heading to the Renaissance Faire more than once a year, but I definitely think we'll be back on another mild day in 2013.