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Bristol Ren Faire: Swords, Shows, Sin (on-a-Stick)

This Labor Day weekend we popped over the IL border to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. We had to hit it before they closed for the year. It was full of fun, fantasy, and fried food. People in costume and performances at every turn. Vendors selling anything you could want from intricate wooden puzzle boxes to oil lamps.

Swords, Shields, & Shops
Entertainment alcoves had post set up for sword play. Random entertainers broke out into duels in the streets with swords clashing and clinking. Not only were we entertained by swords, they had shops selling heavy forged swords for the expert collector and tiny wooden swords for the novice.

The jousting knights handled their javelins, sporting shields fixed to their armor. Brightly-colored shields with coats of arms shattered from the direct blow by their adversary's lance. Children carried wooden shields with dragons, falcons, and lions. Even plastic Thor shields made their way to the faire.

The shops were plentiful. Woodworkers, binders, leather tanners, and metal fabricators lined the paths. You could get handmade candles, pottery, soaps, and glass figurines. Jewelry and clothing. Lanterns and glassware. You could get a mold of your hand or your face painted. You could have your hair braided or feet washed. You could throw tomatoes at a rude clown or shoot an arrow at a haystack. There was no shortage of games, services, or products.

As we stepped through the gate, the callers persuaded us to the Mud Show. It was raunchy, filthy, and funny, with lots of audience participation encouraged. The cloth banners shielded us from the sun as we sat on the benches and watched. Watched the burly man belly flop into the mud pit. Watched the bearded men drag their faces through the mud and kiss a beautiful lady (or hideous man) in the stands. Watched the audience excitedly cheer for their champion with all of the prompted thrusts and arm waving. Very odd and very entertaining. 

We listened to music as we crossed the Queen's Bridge. We found a stage set up with the performers on their accordions, upright bass, and woodwind instruments. We could have stopped and listened to the music on that wonderfully cool and breezy day, but we were hungry and wanted to find some food...on a stick?

Admittedly, I only had one food on a stick. It was falafel and I was sharing with my companions, so I pulled my bit off and enjoyed. It was actually surprisingly good faire food. It may have been the best thing there. 

I did not eat much though, so I can't be the best judge. Lines were long, not surprising for closing weekend. They had buttery garlic mushrooms, piles of potato chips, fried vegetables, donuts, nachos, and hot dogs wrapped in everything. Booths had cheesecake, chocolate-covered bananas, steak, and chicken, all on a stick. Vendors sold giant turkey legs, spicy chicken thighs, and smoked pork chops. Cafes tucked in between shops had coffees and pastries. There was no shortage of food. What I did eat was, interesting. I shared a baked potato doused with nacho cheese, covered in bacon, and blanketed with greasy ground beef. A bacon cheeseburger potato jacket. 

I got side-tracked from my trek with fried cheese fritters. They turned out to be fried cheese balls with some sort of dough or batter on the outside. The cheese inside was very goopy soft cheese. I think I angered the passersby by tossing the last one into the trash bin. Sorry guys, not worth the stomach real estate.

There was no shortage of pubs either. They have enough to support a daily pub crawl. They had stands with cocktails, wine, and beer from the tap. They had ales and lagers, wheats and stouts. 

No faire would be complete without a trip to the roasted nuts stand. I only saw one at this fest and made the mental note for later. It's always best to bring some home. I grabbed some almonds and pecans on the way out and ate much of it before reaching the exit. 

Overall this was worth the trip. We were easily entertained for 4 1/2 hours with shows, shops, and slop. The weather couldn't have been better; it was in the 70s and overcast. We could have stayed for hours more if we caught the shows, enjoyed a pint or two, and ate more grub (on a stick).


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