Bristol Renaissance Faire celebrates 25th anniversary
By Jessi Virtusio firstname.lastname@example.org July 3, 2012 1:29PM
Chivalry is certainly not dead at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, which runs for nine weekends from July to Labor Day.
◆ 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays from July 7-Sept. 2 and on Labor Day, Sept. 3, rain or shine
◆ Just west of Interstate 94’s Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wis.
◆ Tickets, $19.95 for adults and $9.50 for children
◆ Advance ticket discounts at
renfair.com or (847) 395-7773
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Updated: September 1, 2012 10:48AM
Walking into the Bristol Renaissance Faire is like walking into another world, one where a cast of characters paint the scenes with vibrant antics and interactive revelry.
That cast has included Frankfort resident Brian Leo, who has been a part of the summer attraction for 23 of its 25 years.
He even performed for several years in King Richard’s Faire, which became the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
“It’s like a reunion with old friends, almost like a summer camp,” Leo said during a lunch break from his day job.
“It’s also a chance to make people really happy. I know how to do it. I’m good at it. It’s nice to see people smile. I work insurance claims and nobody smiles.
“It’s quite a sense of accomplishment.”
Leo’s accomplishments at the Bristol Renaissance Faire range from being an actor and director of medieval morality plays and a member of a rowdy madrigal group to conducting Sunday services in character and in period.
“The most challenging was the Sunday services,” said Leo, who lived in Mokena for about two decades.
“When I agreed to conduct those services, I didn’t realize it was going to be after the gate opened, which means we’re in a different century.
“I had to create a different character to be distinct from my bawdy character and with a different accent.
“The services were only 15 minutes long. For many of these people who do this for a living and live there, it was the only church they get.
“It was a challenge to stay in character, to stay in the Renaissance period but still say something meaningful.”
After years of performing with his then-wife in a bawdy comedy duo, Leo’s role this year is that of Tinker, a musician.
“Now I’m working without a net. It’s quite daunting,” he said of his solo role as a Scottish folk singer.
“I don’t sing a song that I don’t personally understand. I will do whatever research. Having then learned that, I have to explain that to audiences so they can understand and appreciate it.
“I want them to do more than just listen to it. I want them to understand why it was written and what the emotions were. I find my audience is very responsive to that.”
The village that brings visitors back to 1574 will kick off its 25th anniversary on July 7 and continue on weekends through Labor Day near Kenosha, Wis.
“It offers far more than people think it does. They have their image of turkey legs, but we have so much more. The level of talent is quite professional,” Leo said.
“It’s not just community theater. We have a lot of people that do this for a living.”
Entertainment will include steampunk bagpipe group Klaxton, the juggling of the London Broil Show and the all-female Seelie Players’ debut of “Sirena: From Down Below We Sing”
Returning headliners include Doktor Kaboom! and his scientific diversions, Celtic rock group Tartanic, the Clan Tynker family circus and aerialist Lauren Murray.
Some of Bristol Renaissance Faire’s visitors can be just as colorful as Leo and the other performers.
“There’s been an enormous camaraderie not only among performers but patrons,” he said.
“There is a whole category of patrons that show up in costume and consider themselves part of the village. We’re having a reunion with them as well as each other.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about music, movies and much more on Elaborating on Entertainment at blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment.
◆ WHO: More than 1,200 period artisans and performers including jousting knights, juggling jesters, willful wenches and a newly arrived cast of street-performing fools presiding over revelry of epic proportions.
◆ WHAT: A rollicking romp through Elizabethan England, complete with 16th century games, rides, arts, crafts, food, music and dance, recreating the summer day in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth visited the English hamlet of Bristol. This summer, Bristol commemorates its 25th anniversary with the biggest, boldest and most boisterous celebration to date.
◆ RENQUEST: Bristol’s live action fantasy-play game, which debuted in July 2008, returns with an all-new story line. Bristol’s RenQuest brings the worldwide popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, like World of Warcraft, into the live action dimension of the Renaissance fair, and offers gamers the chance to test their role-playing prowess beyond the realm of their computer screens.
◆ ENTERTAINMENT: Sixteen stages of nonstop entertainment featuring Faire favorites such as Dirk and Guido (“The Swordsmen”), the Sturdy Beggars Mud Show and MooNiE the Magnif’Cent — Juggler, Ropewalker and Foolish Mortal. Also, many of the United States’ top touring Renaissance Faire performers will drop in to help celebrate this summer’s special anniversary. These performers include the Celtic fusion band Tartanic, steampunk bagpipe group Klaxton, the Clan Tynker family circus and sidesplitting Renaissance scientist Doktor Kaboom!
◆ MARKETPLACE: Nearly 200 artisans and crafters showcasing wares ranging from jewelry and leatherworks to tapestries and hand-crafted longbows. Demonstrations by potters, glassblowers, broom caners, forgers and other working artisans.
◆ FOOD AND DRYNKE: Roasted turkey legs, skewered shrimp, barbecued ribs, garlic sauteed mushrooms, steak sandwiches, grilled chicken, ice cream, fruit crepes and other delicacies. Thirst-quenching ales, fine wines, iced tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade.