Go medieval: Janesville Renaissance Faire this weekend at Traxler Park

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Greg Little
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

JANESVILLE—Yes, it's tough to be “on” for eight hours straight.

No, those corsets aren't that uncomfortable.

Yes, renaissance fair performers are aware they actually live in the 21st century.

The wenches, jesters, minstrels and maidens who come to the Janesville Renaissance Faire each year have heard every question you could possibly throw at them. But the laid-back nature of the local festival makes them comfortable enough to keep answering them.

“There are a lot of faires based on fantasy, 'Game of Thrones' corollaries or popular visions of fantastical realms that are sort of medieval, but aren't really,” said Ann-Elizabeth Shapera, otherwise known as Jane the Phoole. “In Janesville, historical interpreters bring you into their world as a guest so you are really immersed in the history. It's far less alienating, and it makes guests a part of what's going on.
“Everyone is welcomed into the world of the show.”

This year's 12th annual event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at Janesville's Traxler Park and will take place rain or shine. Tickets top out at $7 for adults, but there are discounts for food donations, military/emergency services and senior citizens. Two-day passes are available for $10.

Central to the fair are its vendors—merchants specializing in wares that simply scream Elizabethan. Among the treasures that await are leather armor, chainmail, blown glass, weaponry, potion and pins. And yes, you can get a giant turkey leg.

“Right now, we're looking at about 42 craft vendors and another eight doing food or beverages,” said fair founder Chris Last. “We have some new folks doing steampunk stuff and some others doing some really neat hand-sculpted statues. Other than that, it's a lot of returning folks.

“Janesville treats them very well, so we've been able to bring back a lot of really good crafters.”

Also returning are several acts with which fair followers have become familiar. Along with Jane the Phoole, the dance/fire-spinning troupe Pyro & Penumbra and shanty singers Bounding Main also will be on hand.

Bounding Main has been at nearly every Janesville Renaissance Faire since it began in 2005. For singer Dean Calin, it's the event's altruistic slant that has earned a special place in his heart and a permanent spot on his calendar.

“Unlike a lot of these events, it is put on solely to help fund charities and scholarships,” he said. “That's very important. It's a great thing to be able to present our act to an audience, but it's also great when a part of the money goes toward helping others.”

Since its inception, the local fair has raised more than $80,000 for scholarship programs and charities such as Project 16:49 and ECHO, Last said.

“The feedback we've gotten from people is that there is a big need for high school scholarships now, so we're making our push toward revenue for that this year,” he said. “Last year, we raised about $3,000, and we're hoping to be able to double that.”

Helping students and putting smiles on faces are more than enough to get folks such as Jane the Phoole back into character for yet another go.

And again, the corset really isn't that uncomfortable.

“It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get it all on, including makeup,” she said of her costume. “The wonderful thing about Tudor clothing is it doesn't move once it's on, so you can do whatever you want for the rest of the day and nothing's going anywhere.

“I like to think of it as my clothes giving me a little hug all day long.”

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