The Bristol Renaissance Faire is held in the Village of Bristol, Wisconsin every weekend from early July through Labor Day.  This fair is known for its historicity and recreation of the sixteenth century, in particular the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Bristol, England.

The History of the Bristol Renaissance Fair

The founders of the Bristol Renaissance Faire were Richard Shapiro and his wife Bonnie who initially started it as “King Richard’s Faire” in 1972.  At first, the fair was a historic one but soon, fantasy elements stared cropping up, such as elves and satyrs.  Many Tolkien-inspired characters were seen mingling with genuine sixteenth century ones.

When the Shapiros decided to sell off this fair to Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, the fantasy elements were banished, and an attempt at accurate historicity was made which can still be seen today.  In recent years, some fantasy elements have returned, such as Shakespearean wood sprites, but these are relevant to the period and not Tolkien-inspired.

A Re-creation of Queen Elizabeth’s Visit to Bristol, England

In 2012, the role of Queen Elizabeth was played by Jennifer Higgins, who was surrounded by beefeaters—yeomen of the English royal guard; halberdiers—soldiers or guards armed with halberds, weapons that resembles axes; ladies in waiting; equerries—officers in charge of horses; and, of course, a jester.

Once the Queen reached her destination, she settled in and received courtiers, the Spanish ambassador and mummers—masked individuals participating in a pantomime.  There were courtly dances such as the pavane and the volto and a royal feast to suit all tastes, followed by jousting.

Arts and Entertainment at the Bristol Renaissance Fair

There are more than 1200 artisans and performers at the fair, 16 stages providing continuous entertainment, and 200 artisans or craftsmen selling their wares and giving demonstrations to passersby.  You can have your fortune told or your palm read, watch a demonstration of falconry or a mud show.

Overall, the Bristol Renaissance Faire is a great place to forget about the stresses of contemporary life and immerse yourself in a completely different, fascinating period with its elaborate modes of dress, its courtly customs and its handmade arts and crafts.