October is in full swing and it's now time to grab one's laced shirts, tunics, caps and corsets for the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oct 19-20, in Kingdom City.
The festival is in its 15th year and its footprint at its location at 4274 Callaway County Road 220 has grown in the past six years, said Kevin Briscoe, festival casting director and board of directors member. He also is the sporting goods manager at the Mexico Wal-Mart.
The theme for the weekend is Oktoberfest. Active and retired military, law enforcement and emergency services will have free admission Oct. 19 with valid identification. The festival also takes nonperishable food donations, which are then distributed to area food kitchens and pantries.
"When [I] first started at the fair it was just tiny,” Briscoe said. “The acts were more localized and now we see some nationally recognized acts, and we have probably tripled the size of the grounds. We're starting permanent vendor structures. The growth has been incredible.”
More people are coming because a renaissance fair is a release, it is not an everyday thing, he said. The fair features around 60 vendors and craftspeople making products from mediaeval, renaissance, colonial and other time periods. There also are musical acts, comedy acts, magicians, food trucks and stalls. Other permanent structures include the stages and food stall kitchens.
"We have local vendors and some from out of state. That is its biggest draw, it's different," Briscoe said. "They'll have clothing to Viking horns, to swords. Almost anything that you can imagine. We have a wood crafter that builds period style furniture."
The two biggest acts that will perform over the weekend are Musical Blades, a pirate-inspired musical group from Kansas City, and Pictus, a three-person bagpipe and percussion band from Michigan. Local acts include sword fighting troupes and other encampments for living history, Briscoe said. A number of acts that used to perform at the St. Louis Renaissance Festival now perform at the Central Missouri fair, he said.
Briscoe was drawn to renaissance fairs and history through role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. The festival gives people a chance to experience life from the time periods presented in games like Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games, he said.
"When I first started out, I played a viking for a few years, and then I gravitated toward the pirate act that I have. Thanks to movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and things like that, the pirate persona has gotten bigger and bigger," Briscoe said.
A board of seven directors work year-in-year-out to prepare for the three festival weekends, one in April, May and October. The final weekend in October is the big weekend Briscoe said.
"We volunteer, we go out and cut grass, we build, we frame, we do all of the maintenance out there because we are a nonprofit fair, so everything we do is done through volunteers and it works," he said.
People can expect a lot of fun, laughter, music, entertainment, shopping, good food and drinks, he said. While the festival is for everyone, there is one separately ticketed adults-only event since alcohol will be served. The event is called Shots Fired with the Queen and Commodore and features Briscoe. It is sponsored by Dogmaster Distillery of Columbia. It is sequestered from the rest of the festival due to adult jokes, limericks and alcohol as part of the show.
"We try to offer something for everybody. We have a fairy realm for all the kids. We have craft stuff set up that's free for kids to come out and make magic wands and things like that. From open to close, we want you to be entertained," Briscoe said.
There are hopes that in future the festival can become a five-weekend fair in the spring, starting at the end of April and running through Memorial Day. That will still take a few years of planning, however, because the board is trying to prevent burnout, Briscoe said. The spring dates were added around three years ago because the St. Louis festival was moved from the spring to the fall.
"We were trying to capitalize on that loss and give these people who had been going to fairs for years down in Wentzville, an opportunity to still go to fairs," Briscoe said. "This is something we love to do. Your performers and your street actors and your cast, they do this because they love it and they do it for free. We're all volunteers."
Briscoe lives and breathes renaissance festivals. If there is a fair happening somewhere and it's his weekend off from work, he's likely going to a fair, he said. "I go to St. Louis on my off weekends, when I'm not in Kansas City [working at its fair] and just go hang out,” he said. “That's how much I love what I'm doing.”