Three days left to experience the Bristol Renaissance Faire Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. near Kenosha, Wis.
Bristol Renaissance Faire, July 6-Sept. 2 (weekends only),Located just west of I-94’s Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wis., $9.50-$19.95. (847) 395-7773; renfair.com
They face one another, both knowing their duty. With a wooden lance in one hand and the cheers and heckles of an always enthusiastic crowd in their head, they hold on tightly as their horses begin their fast trek toward an uncertain conclusion.
And then, they hold their breath… and hope for the best.
“I broke my arm once and have had a couple of concussions, but nothing too dramatic,” chuckles Matthew Mansour, otherwise known as evil jouster Sir Maxmillian in the Bristol Renaissance Faire, taking place each weekend from July 6 through Sept. 2 just outside of Kenosha, Wisconsin. “I’ve had lots of bumps and bruises, but the beauty of armor is that it works.”
Because while these jousting competitions remain one of the Faire’s most popular spectator sports each and every year, they come with their share of real drama, something Mansour has been intrigued by since he was just a teen. Promising all newly styled jousting exhibitions this year including both light and heavy armor, Mansour is just one of the countless characters who make the Bristol Renaissance Faire such a worthwhile summer tradition.
Taking its framework from the summer day in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth visited the English hamlet of Bristol, the 30-acre Bristol Renaissance Faire attracts over 200,000 attendees searching for a break from the tech-driven modern world.
“When our guests walk through our village gates, they are transported back in time,” explains the fair’s Entertainment Director Kristen Mansour, who attended her first Bristol Renaissance Faire over 20 years ago at the urging of her soon-to-be husband Matthew, a.k.a. Sir Maxmillian.
Voted Best Renaissance Faire in the country in 2012, this year’s Faire will offer many new features, from the modern conveniences of flushing toilets to the addition of 200 more cast members to the building of new structures to house everything from a new tavern to a new coffee shop.
“We constantly listen to what our guests say, and so we have spent the past year in a nationwide search for more entertainment and merchants to offer them while they are here,” explains Kristen Mansour.
Because you see, you never know who might be listening within the confines of this Faire.
“We go out of our way to break that 4th wall between us and our guests,” adds Matthew Mansour. “It’s one of the most intriguing things about the Faire. People don’t expect you to cross that invisible barrier, but we are constantly interacting with our guests. If I hear a heckler for example, you better believe I’m going to give it right back to them.”
Sixteen entertainment stages feature music, comedy, ropewalkers, the Guinness world record-holding fire whip artist Adam Crack, acrobats, newcomers Iris and Rose (bawdy singing sisters) and special musical guests. And the hugely anticipated epic conclusion RenQuest, to the fair’s live fantasy-play game, also will be featured.
Food runs the gamut from giant barbecued turkey legs to Cornish pasties, scones, Mediterranean cuisine, vegetarian delicacies and
plenty of sweet treats. The international Marketplace features nearly 175 artisans and crafters.
Tricia Despres is a Sun-Times free-lance writer.