Every weekend through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7, more than 1,200 period performers, artisans and merchants inhabit the wooded village near Kenosha, Wisconsin; the take visitors along for a rollicking romp through Elizabethan England. More than 200,000 guests are expected to attend the nine-week festival, partaking in 16th Century games, rides, arts, crafts, food, music, and what producers are touting as the most eclectic line-up of special entertainment in two decades.
Complementing a perennially popular array of jousting knights, swashbuckling swordsmen, mud beggars, rope-walkers, dancers and musicians, every weekend of the Faire will feature limited-engagement appearances by special guest artists, including world champion whip-artist Adam Crack (www.winrichwhips.com). Among this summer's newcomers are a fleet-of-foot-and-wit Shakespearean troupe that uses physical comedy to tell the Bard's Twelfth Night in less than an hour, a master pyro-juggler, and an extreme-variety performer whose manipulations with stakes and other sharp objects defy explanation.
Bristol's live action fantasy-play, RenQuest, returns with a new chapter in its evolving story line; the game debuted in July 2008 to rave reviews. This summer, players will learn that the Dragon Bloodtharken, slain at the end of last season, left behind an egg. Gods of the Elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – will engage willing patrons in an escalating adventure of riddles, spells, hunts and other challenges to protect the power of the egg against the villainous Draco Disciples.
RenQuest expands the mass popularity of multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft into an interactive theatrical experience involving the Faire's colorful cast of characters. As guest-participants set out on quests, some of which last a day, while others extend over multiple weekends, they earn experience points and advance through the levels of the live action game. New this summer, RenQuest players can create their characters online on the "Bristol RenQuest" Facebook Fan Page before ever setting foot on the Faire grounds.
RenQuest and other festivities at the Faire take their framework from the summer day in 1574 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited the English hamlet of Bristol. Queen Elizabeth and other historically based characters are juxtaposed with fictional scenarios, such as the popular street-fighting escapades of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Between stages, Faire streets are lined with game and ride areas, food vendors, and merchants selling everything from sterling silver jewelry to rare-edition books and hand-caned brooms. Strolling minstrels, jesters and other era characters mingle with Faire-goers, many of whom come dressed in their own period costumes.
The Faire's Kids Kingdom is an enclosed play area filled with oversized sand boxes, a huge climb-aboard pirate ship, and a cast of fable-favorite characters presiding over a full day of interactive games, crafts and other child-friendly diversions.
Located just west of I-94's Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Bristol Renaissance Faire will open rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every Saturday and Sunday, July 11 through Sep. 6, and on Labor Day, Sep. 7. Tickets purchased at the gate are $18.95 for adults and $9.50 for children age 5 to 12. Opening weekend tickets are $15, with children age 12 and under admitted free. RenQuest participation costs an additional $10 per day or $15 per weekend. Advance ticket discounts are available online at www.renfair.comor by phone, (847) 395-7773.