The Bristol Renaissance Faire — where many tankards of beer are consumed and visitors have been known to gnaw on giant turkey legs — has blossomed into one of the premier Renaissance-themed festivals in the country.
As you stroll the grounds of the faire, you’ll see assorted folks decked out in elaborate gowns, stockings and jackets or sporting thick furry vests. And they don’t even work for the faire! They do this for free — and even pay admission.
That takes commitment ... and the stamina to be covered head-to-toe in black leather even when it’s hot outside.
Besides the abundant people-watching opportunities, the Faire’s schedule is packed with shows, parades and other doings at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who presides over this annual gathering.
There are two weekends left in the Faire’s 32nd season. Which means, if you want to see men in tights clanking swords and drinking ale, you better get moving.
To maximize your time at the Renaissance Faire, use the entertainment schedule (available at the entrance) and catch some shows. It’s a lot more enjoyable if you see a show from start to finish (they last about 20 minutes), rather than wandering around, wondering why people are laughing.
Here is our guide to the faire’s entertainment:
Two shows that debuted in 2018 are back this year:
Who: The Jackdaws
What they do: The group performs original, contemporary and traditional Irish rock music. This trailblazing trio “will excite and have you coming back for more with their driving melodies and relentlessly aggressive lyrics,” according to Faire officials.
Fun fact: You’re watching a rock music show while supposedly enjoying a summer day in 1574!
Who: The Lynx Show
What it is: A blend of magic, sword swallowing and comedy.
Fun fact: The show promises to include audience participation, but if they ask you to swallow a sword, just say no.
Returning this season
Who: The Royal Falconer
What he does: Flight of the Raptor “brings the ancient art of falconry to life. Falconry was not just the ‘sport of kings’ or entertainment for the royal court, it was a way of survival.” Shows demonstrate how the birds hunt their prey and explore the partnership between humans and raptors was forged and spread to all parts of Europe.
Fun fact: You’ll watch these birds fly over the grounds.
Who: Craig of Farrington
What he does: The wandering minstrel specializes in bawdy songs.
Fun fact: He has performed at the Bristol Renaissance Faire for 32 years.
Back for the final weekends
What he does: Broon does a bit of everything in his comedy/variety show. He cracks bullwhips, juggles bowling balls and eats fire.
Fun fact: I was an audience participant in a Broon show more than 20 years ago. (I had to strap him into a straitjacket. Apparently, he escaped.)
Adam Crack’s Fire Whip Show: Lord Mayor’s Forum Stage
Crack — back for his 11th year — whips that rope so fast, you pray it doesn’t fly out of his hand — at least, not in your direction. This is a fun show and, yes, there is fire involved.
Fun fact: Crack is possibly the only whip cracking, juggling, harmonica playing performer you’ll see this summer.
Barely Balanced acrobatics show: Chesire Chase Action Stage
The three performers have charm, humor — and great balance. They do juggling and impossible lifts.
Fun fact: Their 6 p.m. show contains fire!
Who: Clan Tynker
What they do: Juggling skills, stage magic, comedy, dance, sword swallowing, fire-eating and tight-wire walking, all set to music.
Fun fact: This is where you’ll find music performed on instruments including a concertina, accordion, harmonium, dumbek and Balkan tupon. (Whatever that is.)
What: Cutlass Cooking
What they do: This comedy show features pirates, a chest and cooking utensils.
Fun fact: You never saw Julia Child cook like this.
Who: 2 Noisy Knights
What they do: This show offers interactive entertainment for the whole family. The Knights use 75 pounds (or more) of yarn to help them spin their tales.
Fun fact: Their motto is “Why just listen to a story when you can live an adventure?” Why, indeed? Audience members are encouraged to get involved in the experience.
What he does: Ivanovich the Impossibilist brings his magic show to the Faire.
Fun fact: This is the only place at the Faire to see a performer using a Russian accent. Ask him about collusion!
Wash Well Wenches: Three Sheets Stage
These two bawdy “cousins” earn a living by doing laundry ... but their focus is on capturing a man. Expect risque jokes delivered in good cheer, along with audience participation. (If you sit in front, you’re in the “splash zone.”)
Fun fact: The shrinkage jokes will remind fans of a classic “Seinfeld” episode.
Menage a Moi 7: Pig ’n’ Whistle Stage
This is a solo twist on the “2 Merry Men 7 Deadly Sins” show that starred Robin Hood and Little John singing R-rated songs about the seven deadly sins. Now “Robin” is riding solo; the songs are still filthy. His motto is “Dirty comedy, clean booze. Booze costs extra.”
Fun fact: You’ll never hear the song “My Favorite Things” the same way after this show.
Ren Faire classics
The Sturdy Beggars Mud Show: Mud Pit Stage
Yes, they’re beggars. And yes, they eat mud. This is a PG-13 show and if you sit close to the mud pit, you might get dirty. It’s also filled with corny jokes (“we don’t have to be doing this right now — we could be robbing your homes.”).
Fun fact: These guys have been getting muddy since 1979.
Dirk & Guido: The Swordsmen!: Chesire Chase Action Stage
The sword play — and their verbal jousting — is quick and clever. They also teach audience volunteers “the art of gentlemanly behavior.”
Fun fact: They know how to rock those velvet leggings.
MooNie the Magnificent: Globe Stage
MooNie’s show — a 25-plus-year staple at the Faire — features balance tricks, tightrope walking, juggling and comedy. He bills himself as a “ropewalker, juggler, foolish mortal.” His comic antics make you forget that what he’s doing on stage is extremely difficult.
Fun fact: MooNie is a veteran Chicago theater actor — and a hell of a whistler.
Joust to the Death: 5:30 p.m. daily at Wyckham Field. (Other jousts are noon and 3 p.m.)
There is blood — and death — on the jousting field as men on horses do battle.
Fun fact: Despite the name of this show, everyone lives to joust another day.
“Vegetable Justice” booth: Open daily next to the jousting field
People pay money to toss tomatoes at the Renaissance Faire’s version of Don Rickles. These guys — hidden for the most part behind a “target” wall — are quick witted and mean. Oh, so mean.
Fun fact: The quality of the jokes vary depending on who is in the booth at the time you visit.
How Not to Die!: Military Camp
Whether it’s succumbing to disease or getting three feet of steel thrust at you, health and wellness in the 16th century is a constant battle. (Plus, the insurance rates are through the roof!) Bristol’s Trayn’d Bande offers visitors an entertaining look at health and swordplay as they learn the most valuable lesson of all: how not to die!
Fun fact: To date, no one has died during this show.
Courtly Fashion: Nobles’ Glade
Have you ever wondered how many layers the nobles are really wearing? And why certain nobles wear certain items? All of these questions and more will be answered during this time period. Keep an eye out for the queen, who likes to stop by to see the current styles.
Fun fact: This is the closest you’ll get to a runway fashion show at the Renaissance Faire.
Queen Elizabeth and her court: All day at the Nobles’ Glade
If you want to watch re-creations of life at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, head to the Nobles’ Glade, where the queen and her courtiers do things like courtly dances and table setting ceremonies.
Fun fact: This is your best chance to see the Faire’s queen up close.
Food at the faire: All day, everywhere!
This is no time to count your calories, and it is a chance to try some “festival food” besides bratwurst and onion rings.
Faire favorites include giant turkey legs, mushrooms swimming in a garlic/butter sauce, shepherd’s pie, fruit/ice cream crepes and cheese fritters — plus assorted beers and ales.
Fun fact: Despite the cool stuff offered at various booths, you’ll see many visitors opting for breaded chicken nuggets. Some folks just can’t get out of their culinary comfort zone.
PHOTOS: Lincoln Park Live: Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers
Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers — a band made up of Ade on vocals, Cameron Fair on cello and piano, Brittany Lumley playing multiple instruments and backing vocals, Roger Gower Jr. on drums, John Kulas on the bass and Joe Adamek on lead guitar — played a two-hour set at the latest installment of Lincoln Park Live in Lincoln Park, 6900 18th Ave., on Tuesday, July 17.
Here are a roundup of photos of the band performing at the event.
Betsy Ade and the Well-Known Strangers, seen here performing in Lincoln Park during the summer, are playing in Pennoyer Park Saturday as part …