JANESVILLE—Break out your lutes and lances—the Janesville Renaissance Faire returns this weekend for a two-day festival of music, comedy and performance fighting.
Entering its 14th year, the rain-or-shine event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Traxler Park. Proceeds benefit a variety of local organizations and the fair’s own scholarship fund.
Tickets for visitors ages 13 and older cost $7 with $1 off for a nonperishable food donation. Kids ages 5 to 12 are admitted for $5 each, while children younger than 5 will be let in free. Two-day passes for adults cost $10 and are available at the gate.
Co-owner Chris Last highlighted the fair’s appeal to all ages and said anyone who attends can find something to enjoy.
“We don’t want it to just focus on music. We don’t want it to just be theatrical performances. We want a good blend,” he said. “Whoever comes to the show has the chance to get the entertainment they’re looking for.”
One look at the entertainment lineup confirms the intended variety. Many of the exhibitors are traveling performers who have plenty of experience at other Renaissance fairs, Last said.
Activities include fire spinning, sword fighting, belly dancing, storytelling, singing, dancing, juggling and, of course, LARPing.
LARP stands for live-action role playing, where characters dive into a storyline and act it out live for onlookers.
Last said the current ownership has been leading the fair for the past decade. Before then, the festival functioned mainly as a fundraiser for the Janesville Jaycees Fourth of July fireworks.
When the Jaycees disbanded, fair leaders decided the festival could still serve as a way to raise funds for local charities. Several board members work for the Janesville School District, so a lot of the money goes toward organizations or programs that work with kids.
Those include Project 16:49, which serves homeless teenagers, and a program that provides bus tokens to low-income students so they can get to and from school, Last said.
Other local nonprofits that have benefited from fair revenue include ECHO, Salvation Army and the Janesville Farmers Market—to provide free and discounted produce to those who need it.
The fair tries to give away $5,000 worth of scholarships each year. The exact amount varies based on weather and attendance in a given year, he said.
While the fair will certainly attract some local Renaissance buffs who will dress in period costumes, Last said everyone is welcome even if “Game of Thrones” is their only exposure to the era. It’s most important that people wear what is comfortable rather than try to squeeze into their best tunics.
Even if people aren’t thrilled with medieval culture, they can visit vendors selling handcrafted wood and glass items or chow down on food. And the food is modern—no meat pies or pottage, although there will be turkey legs, a Renaissance staple, Last said.
The fair balances the interests of hardcore and casual Renaissance fans, but Last hopes the inviting experience is what everyone enjoys most.
“It’s interactive entertainment,” he said. “You can go see a movie, you can go see a TV show, or even a play down at JPAC, but a lot of those are direct performer to audience interaction.
“With an outdoor environmental theater event that we’ve got with the Janesville Renaissance Faire, you get a lot of interaction with the audience. The audience gets to participate with the performers and gets to be a part of not only the scene but also the whole environment the show provides.”