Friday, July 15, 2016

Open Wide the Gates! (A Peek at What's Inside at the Bristol Renaissance Faire)

We're a peculiar lot, we people outside the gates of Bristol. There are nobles, peasants, gypsies, pirates, and barbarians among us. There are folks dressed as Star Wars characters and Dr. Who, and others are decked out in their finest steampunk attire, standing alongside people like us who almost seem out of place, in everyday street clothes. We are pressing toward the entrance, eager to leave the 21st century behind us as soon as we can enter the gates of Queen Elizabeth's kingdom. 


The crowd is anticipating the magical words, 

"OPEN WIDE THE GATES!"


Where is such a magical place? The quaint port village of Bristol, England can be found in Bristol, Wisconsin, on summer weekends and Labor Day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. 

Once inside, we are swept along with the pulsing throng to 1574 in England where it is easy to believe we have truly traveled back in time. The dusty streets are alive with jugglers, musicians, and entertainers. 

Quaint shops offer goods that range from useful to fanciful: boots, toys, instruments, and scented oils and candles to fairy wings, elfin ears, and floral garlands to wear on our heads.




The Bristol Buskin Frolic is gathered around the maypole where musicians play popular tunes from the period as the youthful dancers invite visitors to join them. They entertain us with their harmonious voices as they weave the colorful ribbons in beautiful patterns.

The heady aroma of cinnamon roasted nuts drifts through the village, mixing with the fragrance of cooked sausages and roasted turkey legs. There are shepherd's pies, pastries, crèpes, dried meats, and fruit-flavored ices. There are icy lemonades and sassafras sodas to slake our thirst, and plenty of ale.

"MEAT!"
There is something for everyone seeking entertainment: magic, music, acrobatics, and comedy. Performers can be found on the streets and on the stage. Shakespeare's corner is where the actors take turns performing some of the (then) young playwright's work to the delight of the crowds who gather there. 


There is a shady glen that is visited frequently by the Fantastikals, woodland creatures who only interact with children and Her Royal Highness herself. 



It is as though adults do not exist in the world of the fae folk. The fairies delight in gifts from little ones; leaves, twigs, and special rocks. A great spider web is strung among the trees by a beautiful fairy with silver hair. She invites children to add trinkets from nature to her wondrous web. 

There is great fanfare when Queen Elizabeth parades through the village with her entourage. She is protected by her guards, the beefeaters, and her own militia. Ladies in waiting escort her as she parades through town. Peasants and townspeople show their respect with curtsies and bows as the nobles pass through the town. 


After crossing the wooden footbridge, the military presence is obvious before entering the Queen's court. There are guards and soldiers milling about while the nobles are presented to Her Royal Highness. 

The local surgeon and the militia give demonstrations, teaching about medieval medical procedures and how weapons work.


Throughout the day, loud cheers go up from the nearby crowd attending the joust. The brave knights battle for their honor in front of the Queen and her subjects. The sound of splintering wood hitting armor splits the air. The crowd roars with approval.


As the sun hangs low in the sky, a rhythmic drumming invites all to the closing ceremony at the drum circle. Dancers of all ages and abilities twist and move to the rhythms. 



There are belly dancers, mothers with babes in arms, lovers-young and old, and others of us who cannot resist the hypnotic pulse of the percussion beat.

When at last it is time to go home, our bellies are full, our shoes dusty, and our hearts happy. Bristol is a place full of smiles and laughter, and once we leave, we want to come back as soon as we can. 

20 comments:

  1. Lovely words and gorgeous pictures. You took me back in time. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Stella! I finally understand a little better why people enjoy Dr. Who so much. This time travel stuff is awesome!

      Delete
  2. Magical! And those photos! Incredible!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a magical place, and I daresay a little happier than the "happiest place on earth." I'm not a Disney fan, but I am a huge Bristol fan!

      Delete
  3. Beautiful! I'm happily sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your photos are awesome! As a former performer it was nice to see the place again!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Denise, these photos are just gorgeous! Thank you for taking us with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Denise. We have so much fun there. I just try to capture the essence of that.

      Delete
  6. I have never been to a Ren-Faire, but this post certainly makes me want to. How wonderful this is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are several big ones throughout the US, but Bristol nabs the highest ratings!

      Delete
  7. You got some great shots! Wowser! I haven't been to our Ren Faire in several years. I always forget since it's in May and school... Lovely captures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chuck and I hope to come to the California faire next year!!!

      Delete
  8. Your photographs are just vibrant. I want to *be* there, to take my daughter to meet the Fantastikals! This year was my husband's first time at a Faire, and I probably had a crazed fangirl look on my face the entire time, watching him to make sure he absolutely loved it like I did. He did have a very pleasant time. Even engaged in a conversation with the local master of the woodland forest. :) Thank you for sharing- this is a wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy, what faire do you attend?

      Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for ren faires with me.

      Delete
  9. Amazing photos! Thanks for taking us along with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming with me! And thank you.

      Delete

Thank you so much for stopping by Randomocity. Like most writers, I enjoy interacting with the wonderful people who read what I have to say, so please, if you would like to leave a "blogment," I would love to hear from you!