If you didn't get your fill of fried food at the Wisconsin State Fair, never fear. The Bristol Renaissance Faire is here to fill your supersized-fare needs — turkey-leg style.
The medieval festival, which runs Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 1, takes over 30 acres in Kenosha every year, serving up all kinds of feudal fun. It's all the best of Elizabethan England — dashing knights, lovely maids, steins of beer, turkey legs — without the plague, dysentery and limited life expectancy. Although there may be a little bloodshed.
The Bristol Renaissance Faire has been entertaining visitors for nearly three decades. I visited a number of times when I was younger, getting into the spirit with flower head wreaths and flowing skirts. But it had been more than a decade since my last visit when I took a Swiss exchange student to the faire last year. Because what's more American than medieval England?
The faire is just as I remembered it, and perhaps even better. The elaborate setting is based on what the English hamlet of Bristol looked like when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited on a summer day in 1574, and even as an adult, I was in awe of how much it felt as if we had stepped back in time.
Employees dressed in 16th-century period attire roamed the grounds, mingling with visitors dressed up in everything from steampunk and Harry Potter fashions to fitted gowns and doublets.
Aside from just wandering the grounds to take in the sights, sounds and smells, there's plenty to do. Among the free entertainment offerings — some of which are rated PG-13 and up — are performances from a fire whip master, sword-fighters, acrobatic acts, as well as a mud show and musical performances. Also look for roving performers and a visit from the queen daily.
The jousting is a crowd favorite and features knights competing in tests of skill and strength, battling obstacles and each other.
Take some time to stroll the medieval marketplace, which features everything from artwork and armor to jewelry and musical instruments. Some of the merchants also give historical demonstrations.
Kids will enjoy games, crafts and a giant sandbox in Kids Kingdom, or trying on armor and doing pike drills in the Military Encampment. For an extra fee, visitors can also try archery, a climbing wall, a mock fight with a knight and other games and rides.
New this year is a da Vinci theme for the faire's live action fantasy-play game, RenQuest. Think "World of Warcraft" but in real life — participants complete quests, hone skills and defeat villains throughout the grounds.
Our journey through Bristol included attempting juggling, watching a comedy troupe perform, cheering on knights during a joust, perusing arts and crafts, laughing at spontaneous performances on the streets, and of course, trying a turkey leg.
"How do you eat it?" the exchange student said when we handed her the giant hunk of meat.
"You put your face to it and you get food," my friend told her. Welcome to America.
Getting there: The Bristol Renaissance Faire is at 12550 120th Ave., Kenosha, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee via I-94.
More information: Tickets to the faire cost $23.95 for adults and $11.50 for children ages 5-12. Children 4 and under are free. Save $2 when you buy your tickets in advance online, or save $4 at Walgreens.
The faire is open Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sept. 1. Call (847) 395-7773 or see renfair.com/bristol.
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