One of the hardest things about leaving Wisconsin was that I was saying goodbye to my beloved Bristol Renaissance Faire for awhile. I had come to think of that place as a second home, and having familiar faces to see and hugs to have was a welcoming sight every single moment of the 8 summers I attended. Like everything in life, change can be difficult, but my hope was that for a new Faire I would find new friends, new experiences, and new opportunities. Here is my day at the Sarasota Medieval Faire- enjoy!
I had forgotten the time it takes to get into my garb- along with the early hours that go along with it. Ken and Anthony were picking Kyra and I up at 7 a.m., so that meant I had to get up at 5:30 to shower, prepare, and then get tied in. Yes, get tied in. If you know anything of the Renaissance world, tying yourself into your garb is all part of the process. I had such lovely people at Bristol to help me with it, so this time I had Craig help me do it. (He didn’t mind). I hadn’t given much thought to how my back would handle all of this stress- I had been on the ground waiting for Richard Marx, then stars from Harry Potter, and then being wrapped up in a corset for 8 hours- a busy but very sore week!
We were picked up and with breakfast in the car, we headed to Sarasota with our friends. We arrived early enough so I had time to prepare my garb, myself mentally and enough time for a small prayer that my friends would enjoy what the day would bring. I knew what Bristol held, but this was so new to me that it made me extremely nervous. I couldn’t take them to my favorite shows, actors, or even pub because I had no clue like the rest of them- again- it made me nervous.
The opening show was a small band of minstrels, with the King, King Richard the 2nd, speaking to the crowd. Bristol had an older Queen, Sarasota had a 14 year old King- it couldn’t have been any more different from the start. BUT- he was hilarious. He was like a spoiled child, with no clue of how to rule a kingdom, so in that sense, he was my favorite character from the start. (Kyra’s too!)
My admission to the Faire was even sad, I had been getting cast tickets forever at Bristol, even free ones for my Birthday, and I almost chuckled that I had to pay $17.95 for Kyra and I, each. Lady Visa and Lord Mastercard were not working, not the best thing for an opening day- so cash would have to do. This Faire DOES NOT allow pets, and I also noticed that they had no security measures of checking bags in the way in.
The theme this year, and this was their 5th year in production, was the Peasants Revolt. The Cast marched in, parade fashion, with the Royals first, and the mad mob behind them. They looked like a fun bunch, but I still kept expecting to see familiar faces for some reason. As we entered inside, we were met with smiles and “Good Days”- it made me smile to hear that. The biggest thing I loved about Bristol was hearing the many wonderful persons say time after time “Good Day.” I met a funny mute, who insisted on a picture, and some of the Royals who did actually talk to me. In Bristol, the Royals mostly kept their noses in the air and talked to no one. The classes kept to themselves, and I didn’t see a whole lot of interaction with the crowd coming in. This surprised me, as when you enter Bristol, you are immediatedly involved in their world.
The four of us walked around to see everything first, to become familiar with the stages and areas. I smiled every time I saw something familiar- wax hands, garb for sale, and the varieties of handmade soaps. Kyra’s staple in Bristol was always a giant pickle, so that was the first food item of the day. Speaking of food, they had a large variety of choices. Sonny’s BBQ is big down here, kind of like Famous Daves in WI, and because they were the sponsor, they of course had a booth. We grabbed pulled pork sandwiches there, along with a couple of Cokes at another booth for an early lunch.
Our first show of the day was the “Tortuga Twins”- now why this was a funny name was that the group consisted of three men, and neither of them looked like the other. A comedy show, they told the story of Robin Hood. But what makes these shows fun are audience participation moments… the ones in which my good friends, Ken and Anthony, hoped would never happen. Then, as he looked around for his Robin Hood…I saw him pace behind the guys. I thought, “Oh NO” and BAM- he put the green hat on Ken and said “We have found our hero!” Anthony, Kyra, and I were busting!!! Ken did such a nice job, and his “Tally ho” was spot on! We are so proud of you Ken, you did a great job.
Next was the human chess match, which was a neat thing to see because Bristol doesn’t have this at all. I’m thinking the reason they may not have it is because you need a very large cast to pull it off, with a lot of time to make a real move. Every time a person moved, they would fight. After about 4 moves, all war broke out and basically the peasants had enough. It was entertaining, but since I don’t know chess at all, I had no clue of what was going on. I will say there bleachers are directly in the sun, so it can get quite hot on those silver seats. It was neat to see once, but we wound up leaving it early to head to jousting.
The jousting arena is basically more bleachers and a long pile of sand for the joust itself. Again, I was spoiled by Bristol, and I was hoping it would be this amazing event. We didn’t sit in the bleachers, but in the shade, so we could not hear a thing that was being said by the King near the arena. They had no microphones, so unless you were sitting very close to the King, you wouldn’t have heard much. We saw the horses and men compete, and the Knights were in full armor. They ran at each other a couple of times, and then it was over. Not really much of a theme to it, so to me, it was just ok.
Next we headed for more drinks and then to “Filthy Fairytales.” What I thought this was supposed to be was a muddy, witty show about fairytales. What it wound up being was two ladies trying too hard and just not quite making it to be anything worth watching. MANY people got up and left, including us, and I hope it was just first day jitters for them and not what that show was really meant to be.
Last but not least was to be the “Washing Well Wenches.” Now, this was a show I had seen before in Bristol- YAY! I had talked them up to the guys, so we were all pretty excited to see them. The show was packed, and they started with their wet blanket “Mr. Wettums.” If you didn’t cheer loud enough, Mr. Wettums had to come out to play and basically get the audience wet- GENIUS!! Then they picked their first victim, I mean, person. Their whole shtick is picking out guys from the audience and explaining what courtly love is. As the first guy was on stage, the blond washer woman says “He touched my wet spot” and the audience laughs. She then starts to shake and her eyes roll up into the back of her head- again- we thought she was playing along with what she had just said. Then she fell backwards into the small wading pool behind her, trying to grab the volunteer in with her. Her partner looked in the pool to see that she was not coming back up, and indeed was not breathing. She screamed “This is not part of the show- HELP ME” and many rushed to help, including Anthony who is a nurse. It was a very scary moment to watch, and made me more sick to my stomach that we all laughed as she had a seizure. They called 911 and she was out of there about 15 minutes later- very hard moment to watch in general. I hope and pray she is doing ok, and that she knows that there are those of us out there that care.
After such an alarming moment, we tried to just walk it off and listened to a Celtic band. I had had enough in the garb- it was time to pull the string! I grabbed my real clothes out of Anthony’s vehicle and headed to the handicapped porta potty. Yes, I changed in a porta potty- not my proudest moment. But it was a moment of “If I don’t get out of this corset soon, I am going to scream.” After I was back in my civilian clothes, and in a regular bra again, I was comfortable enough for the 2 hour ride home.
I felt it was a beautiful day, full of unexpected experiences. It was weird to see palm trees among the many tents, but It was that hard realization I was indeed not in Kansas anymore. It did make me renew my faith in heading back to Bristol for their 25th Anniversary this coming summer, and I so look forward to seeing those familiar faces of the Swordsmen, Craig of Farrington, Moonie, Jane, Fritz, and the rest of my friends. But until that reunion, I plan on heading to Tampa in February for their Renn Fest, which I hear is the biggest of the state. I will continue to keep looking for my Bristol here in FL, and I am happy I at least tried this one. Kyra, Anthony, and Ken had a great time, and I thank them all for enjoying the experience with me. On a side note… Kelly- I missed you the most yesterday, it is just isn’t the same with out my giggling best friend saying “Good Day” with me.