Bristol Renaissance Faire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bristol Renaissance Faire
Broken lances.jpg
Jousting at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, 2006
Genre Renaissance fair
Dates July - September
Location(s) Bristol, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, United States
Inaugurated 1973
Attendance 198,000–400,000 (average)
Stages 16

Bristol Renaissance Faire ("Bristol") is a Renaissance fair held in a Renaissance-themed park in the Village of Bristol, Wisconsin. It recreates a visit of Queen Elizabeth I to the English port city of "Bristol" in the year 1574. The faire runs for the nine weekends from early July through Labor Day.


Costumed performers from the 2006 Bristol Renaissance Faire.

The Bristol Renaissance Faire was founded in 1972 by Richard Shapiro, and his wife Bonnie, as "King Richard's Faire". The event was a four-weekend fair and drew approximately 10,000 people.[1] Initially the faire was generically historic, but through the 1970s and 1980s non-historical fantasy-based elements increased, with trolls, satyrs, and many Tolkien-inspired features, such as a Hobbit hole, Sindarin-speaking elves, and wizard battles.

In 1989, the Shapiros sold the fair to Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, having created a second incarnation of the King Richard's Faire in Carver, Massachusetts. The original King Richard's Faire was re-opened that year as the "Bristol Renaissance Faire", employing a more historical approach. The fantasy elements were banished under the new ownership and a serious attempt at historicity was made. The reigning monarch became Queen Elizabeth I rather than the fictional "King Richard", and the year was set at 1574. Costumes became more authentic. At that time, the fair played seven weekends and drew over 200,000 visitors annually,[1] thus placing it among the highest attended in the world.[2] In recent years, fantasy elements have returned such as Shakespearean wood sprites patrolling the grounds.[3] Renaissance faire staples such as jousting tournaments, historical reenactments, and stage shows continue.

Production values[edit]

The Bristol Faire's proximity to Chicago enabled the artistic directors to bring improv comedy teachers from The Second City and The Players Workshop, including instructor and director Eric Forsberg, who taught improvised interactive street theater techniques until 1997,[4] and Ron Scot Fry, who was artistic director from 1989 until 2008.[5][6][7]

Critical commentary[edit]

Journalist Neil Steinberg said of the Bristol Renaissance Faire: "If theme parks, with their pasteboard main streets, reek of a bland, safe, homogenized, whitebread America, the Renaissance Faire is at the other end of the social spectrum, a whiff of the occult, a flash of danger and a hint of the erotic. Here, they let you throw axes. Here are more beer and bosoms than you'll find in all of Disney World."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Renaissance Magazine, vol. 2, no. 1, Issue #5? (Spring 1997).
  2. ^ De Groot, Jerome (2008). Consuming History. Taylor & Francis. p. 120. ISBN 0-415-39945-9. 
  3. ^ "Bristol Renaissance Faire for more than kings, queens" Chicago Heights Star, August 23, 2007. Archived August 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Murphy, Meg (July 12, 1998). "It may require just a jaunt across the Illinois-Wisconsin border". Chicago Tribune. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived June 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Robyn Hoode - Bristol Renaissance Faire". Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  7. ^ "Magic Mike Harvatt - The International Brotherhood of Magicians". Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  8. ^ Neil Steinberg, "Out of Time, Nearly: Feast of Fools," Chicago Sun-Times, August 15, 2007, p. 23

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°29′55″N 87°57′22″W / 42.49861°N 87.95611°W / 42.49861; -87.95611