This past weekend, my boyfriend, his older sister Ashley, our friend Anne, and I ventured to the north to a place I call home. This came after the same trip a few weekends past that I invited my Vannah, Amber, and our Mom to. For months before our first trip, my toes were constantly numb due to over excitement. We purchased yards of fabric, a basket of shells, netting, and lace. We spent afternoons piecing together costumes and accessories fit for a queen. Well, not really a queen. More like pirates and gypsies.
Where did we go? What could possibly have required months of preparation?
The same place we have gone every year since Tyler and I got together. The place that makes my knees go weak with happiness. The city that makes me cry tears of joy just to be in. Bristol, Wisconsin. Home of the Bristol Renaissance Faire! The only place to be on the weekends from early July to Labor Day.
This past weekend, we convinced ourselves to go back to Bristol for the last day of the season. It rained all day. At some points, it thundered and poured. By the end of the day there were rivers flowing through the Faire with little wooden bowl ships floating down them. But not once did I see a forlorn face. Not once did a shop keep seem peeved to have sopping wet people clustered in their shop. Hell, the gent and lady running Damsel in this Dress (which you can and definitely should find on Facebook) were wonderfully hospitable. I do not unfortunately remember the woman’s name, but she gifted my friends smiles like I have never seen and all because she was able to share her love and passion for corsets.
On a side note, you can follow Bristol Renaissance Faire and all of the acts that go there on Facebook along with most of the shops. I highly suggest doing so for a few reasons. A.) Barely Balanced posts awesome training videos and they are constantly up to shenanigans. B.) The official page posts Days at the Faire videos, ticket discounts, contests for free tickets, character interviews, and auditions for the Faire. There may or may not be Renn Faire themed puns every once in awhile too. C.) The shops are marvelous in person and being able to purchase wares from them all year long is a miracle. Seriously, Damsel in this Dress. And Argent Rose. Trust me.
Now, I know what you must be thinking. Put a piece of cheesecake on a stick and you can call anywhere a Renn Faire. And I would say to you, that you are wrong. So wrong. You poor scallywag. Someone out there has failed you. Allow me to rectify that, to a degree.
I could describe Bristol for you. I could mark up a map and point to the various stages and tell you that on this stage, Dirk and Guido turn men into manly men with swordplay and chivalry, with finely turned legs. I could point you in the direction of the Noble’s Glen where the Queen and her court take tea and give lessons or the jousting ring, where Sir Maximilian takes victory after victory and the falconer shows off her peregrine. It would be a small thing to whisper the secrets of the Fantastikals of the Faire in your ear. I could tell you how intensely the garlic mushrooms make my mouth water and how sweet the fruit punch and sassafras is. It would be nothing to describe the fried cheese balls, teriyaki chicken, or fried shrimp tempura to you until your stomach ached with hunger. You’d be unable to stop the tears in my eyes or the grin on my face when I talked about the way music drifts through the air, all violins, drums, whistles from Moonie, and bells. And when I point to a corner of the Faire and tell you that it is the center of the most somber event, you would know that I spoke of the Danse Macabre.
I could explain each and every show. It would take a while and by the end, you’d probably want to go. You could hear about the random events and the various characters that haunt the Faire and you’d probably insist on going next year. You could see pictures of the Fae and become enchanted. And I would never blame you. My excitement would become your excitement. You’d dream of walking the streets of Bristol, bells jingling at your hip.
All the words in the world are not enough to describe this place that is home to me. There isn’t a poet eloquent enough to handle the job. I cannot put into words why the smell of cinnamon and honey makes my heart hurt. There is no true way to convince you that there is nothing better than watching Vannah’s eyes go wide as a fairy steals her fries or as an escaped Protestant from Catholic England tell her stories of dragons that cry glass that live in the forests. I could not impress upon you the glory in Ashley’s face as she was laced into her first beautiful corset. Nor could I imagine a perfect way to explain how delighted Anne was to be a part of a drunken scavenger hunt in her siren’s costume.
Bristol has latched onto my heart like the Tortuga Twins onto a bad joke. I dream of the Faire and on days when I miss it most, I wear my bells at my hip and a corset laced just right. I long for the days when I can dip a curtsy to the Queen and squeal when she asks how my day at the Faire is going.
So, friends, I leave you with this. May you find a place to call home and may you have someone to share it with. May your sassafras always be cold, your loaded bangers hot, and your legs finely turned. May the gods find you in health and may you never hesitate to share joy when you find it. And may I see you next year at the Bristol Renaissance Faire!
Until next time,