*Note*: As I return to school for the semester, I am finally left with the time with which to recount my Summer travels. However, school prevents me from traveling as much as I’d like during the semester. As a compromise, and as a gift for waiting so long since my introductory post for content, I will be spreading out the tales of my adventures through a number of hopefully-action-packed posts, rather than a single post for each trip. It is my hope that this effort will provide you some interesting reading until I can get back out doing what I’m good at: having good times in fun places.
Imagine a weekend in late July. You’ve spent all Summer with unlimited time, but now Summer is coming to an end. School, work, and other unfortunate obligations are around the corner, and you must prepare for them. Realizing all of this, you let out a sigh. You have fond memories of the Summer, but surely it is time to prepare for the return to real life…
…Or a weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin with your best friend.
This year was my second year in a row going to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I plan on keeping the tradition. Not much changes, but still I feel compelled to return as each Summer arrives. Excited to travel back to a simpler, more adventurous time, my friend Melody and I mounted our steeds and set off on an epic quest.
As we arrived at the grand gates of the medieval village of Bristol, I first noticed how much I had been outdone by my fellow Faire-goers costume-wise. I was wearing a Scottish Ghillie shirt, chest laced together by leather string, simple brown pants, boots, and a small deer-antler hunting knife hanging from my wide leather belt, worn tunic-style across my stomach. It was a simple outfit, one I had thought fitting at the time, but just as it struck me last year, it struck me again: I was very under-dressed. I saw peasants and nobles in everything from chain mail to fur to burlap. There were lords and ladies clad in layers of tunics, cloaks, scarves, skirts, bodices, straps, and belts. From those straps and belts hung mugs, flagons, tankards (of metal, leather, and wood), bags, coin-purses, rags, and naturally, weapons. My meager blade with a deer-antler handle was put to shame by the cutlasses, broadswords, axes, and yes, even the daggers, I saw hanging from the backs and waists of the fair denizens and visitors of Bristol.
Though I had clearly been outdone, Melody and I managed to blend in a little better after a round of shopping at the Ye Olde Locale Shoppes.
One of the things that always brings me back to Bristol is the shops. There you can find a multitude of items from any trade or craft, nearly all of them handmade and of the highest quality. It’s almost like a flea market for artisan wares. If you have the copper (cash) to spare, you can quickly transform from a boring, modern Pauper into a pelt-wearing, medieval Prince after a trip to Bristol’s local businesses.
Now that we were thoroughly broke, we were ready to be fully immersed in the culture and entertainment from times of yore. Unfortunately for me, Melody managed to pick a show where the audience participation meant that I would be the entertainment. Dirk and Guido: The Swordsmen, were our on-stage hosts. After showing a splendid display of sword-work and devilish, rugged roguery, the ladies of the audience were asked if any of them wished to offer up their male companions to be harshly judged and ridiculed by an audience-like jury of their non-peers. Never before had I seen a hand fly up as quickly as Melody’s. Never before had my fate been so quickly sealed. It took but a moment for Dirk’s eyes to fall upon me and silently declare that I would not be getting out of this. Moments later I was standing on-stage with several other men, each of us trying to look our best and bravest in our costumes, and each of us failing grievously to do so. As the audience laughed a fully, hearty laugh that can only come from the embarrassment of loved ones, Dirk and Guido walked up and down the line, instructing each of us in the art of looking heroic and masculine. After a few minutes of practicing and posing, we were ready. Dirk and Guido gave the call, and in a synchronized flourish of confidence we all struck our chest-puffing poses, placed a rose in our teeth, and made a marching stride back into the audience, returning lovingly back to those who had so quickly and easily thrown us under the bus. But my brief training by the expert Swordsmen was only the beginning of my weekend of fun.