Pirates, gypsies, jesters, and jousters all call the Siouxland Renaissance Festival home for two days June 9 and 10, transforming the grounds into a scene dating back to medieval times.
The year is 1575 in the town of Shrewsbury, England, where you’ll find Captain Nadia Leastien and her first mate, Nathaniel Bridges, sharing stories with visitors about raiding ships and serving up drinks in the mead tent.
Leastien’s real name is Jennifer Olson, although she’s been playing the part of a pirateering captain at the Renaissance Festival long enough for visitors to recognize her pirate garb and feathered hat. She went to her first Renaissance festivals when she was 5, and left captivated.
“Zilch the Torysteller always blew me away as a kid, and even now as an adult, because he has everything from the children’s stories to the wonderful risque adult stories. So it’s kind of nice to keep seeing the same performers,” said Olson, now a ninth year volunteer.
Zilch is one of many favorite acts at the festival, with other includes the Four Pints Shy and the Tortuga Twins that travel around the country as nationally-known Renaissance performers.
Another crowd favorite is the medieval jousting, where knights donning full armor, lances in hand, battle on war horses. Taking place in the Expo building on the fairgrounds, it makes for “one of the few air-conditioned jousts I’ve ever seen,” said first mate Nathaniel Bridges, or better known outside of his Renaissance character as Tim Newcomer.
For Newcomer, his role as Olson’s first mate began after his first year volunteering dressed as a Viking, “and then someone suggested we do pirates, and then it really took off from there,” he said. As Nathaniel Bridges, Newcomer plays the part of a mysterious runaway who left his parents to join Captain Nadia on the seas.
“That tells you how easy it is to get sucked into the Renaissance Festival as you think you’re going to try it out, and then before you know it, you’ve created a whole character with a backstory,” said Olson.
The first time Reilly Licha attended the festival was on a date with his future spouse Kathy, who dressed up in her Renaissance costume, made Reilly feel naked in comparison. So the next year, he had his mom sew him a shirt and pants. A few years after that in 2013, Reilly and Kathy got married at the festival in which Kathy rode a war horse in her wedding gown.
“Once we started getting involved it felt like a big family,” said Reilly.
Over the years for the Lichas, their costumes have had to change slightly as their roles changed, as Reilly said, when he become treasurer for the festival, he realized being a gypsy pirate didn’t quite fit the job.
“It became a joke when I was taking over the treasury that it was in the constitution that I could not be a pirate,” he said. So instead, since treasurers are known to say ‘no’ to most things, he then became “Lord Hamish No McDaniel.”
With that same attitude, each festival goer is “welcomed as though you are already a part of the festival,” said Newcomer. “So if you’re visiting in shorts and a tank top, you’ll be greeted as an important character who already belongs to the festival.”
Chances are, once you go, you’ll want to keep going back to be immersed in all the sights, acts, and merriment of medieval times.
For more information, visit siouxlandrenfest.com.
TWENTY EIGHTEEN STORYLINE
The Renaissance festival tries to welcome, entertain, and educate visitors with historical accuracy mixed into the fun of creating characters. Each year a different storyline will play out at the festival, and this year expect to watch an English Lord woo Queen Elizabeth the I into marriage by throwing her a springtime festival, (although you’ll have to wait to see if he’s successful).
Siouxland Renaissance Festival
June 9 and 10
Adults $15, seniors and children $6, under 3 is free.
WHAT TO WEAR
Everyone is encouraged to dress up for the festival, especially children who can pull out princess, gypsy, and fairy costumes.