The weekend after the 4th of July typically is one of the most fest-filled ones in the Chicago area – which is fitting.
With all the seeming acrimony in the country right now, such gatherings remind what’s best about this nation. And I’m not kidding about that.
Our collective love of frivolity of all sorts, of celebrating cultures from where we have roots, from where we wish we had roots and heading to make-believe places where some think they literally have roots – as in tree roots – shows a wacky, inventive, tolerant spirit that shows a bright side of the United States.
Off to the Ren Faire and the Brat Stop
With that in mind, best fest buddy Tom and I headed out for our annual triumvirate of post-Fourth festivities, this time with new recruits, Diane and Jason, along for our first stops: the Bristol Renaissance Faire and the Brat Stop.
Diane even drove, and took a back way that brought us right to an entrance – avoiding the interstate and Great America in the process.
We’ve been to the Faire enough that when I asked Tom what stood out this time, he said it was noticing a lot of people he recognized from past years. That would include a very tall black man who dresses more like he toured with Prince and the Revolution than was a buddy of any Elizabethan; a Viking showing off his six-pack abs; babes in belly dancer garb with the opposite of six-pack abs; and an assortment of shops selling pipes, kilts, chimes, pickles on a stick, and corsets.
It wouldn’t be the Ren Faire without turkey legs for sale, and, this being Diane’s first visit, she had to have one. Alas, it was too much of a feast for her, which is where Jason came in handy.
Jason, Diane, Tom and I could have told people at the fest we were the Fantastic 4, but with three Hulks. No one would have batted an eye.
That’s the interesting thing about the Ren Faire. Sure, you have jousting, people dressed up like the royal court being served a meal while the tourists clap, and moms and daughters trying to knock balloons off their heads with swords, just like in the days of old.
But you also have people dressed as characters from Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, steampunks, tree people and lord knows what sort of video game or super furry cosplay creatures. (By the way, what was up with people wearing crow masks? I looked it up online, and apparently it was what plague doctors wore – in the 17th century.)
Also – like Game of Thrones fans do for the show, referring to it by initials, I’m calling this column, DOTL.
There was even a Disney princess – a Snow White. That story didn’t come out until the 1800s, but hey.
Anyway, Diane said her favorite attraction was the mud show, where three middle aged guys clown about, belly flop or faceplant in the mud, kiss people in the audience, giving them muddy faces, and then one of them eats mud.
Make your own election cycle joke here – especially since they passed the hat for money.
And I tried to set Tom up with this cute little fox. And when I say cute little fox, I mean a short, elderly woman dressed in animal pelts. Turns out she was taken. Probably by a fur trapper.
I think Jason liked the bratwurst at the Brat Stop best.
In case you haven’t been, The Brat Stop stop rivals the Mars Cheese Castle as being quintessentially throwback Wisconsin.
It’s also where, if you’re old enough, you headed across the border in your dad’s Dodge Dart to see Cheap Trick, The Romantics or any number of bands now on the summer festival circuit (where the rules disallow any performer under the age of 50).
Back then, of course, there was no such thing as a jalapeno brat, or a Cajun brat or a garlic one. And there wasn’t any Spotted Cow, then either. Just Old Style.
So that was Saturday.
The Irish and the Greeks
Sunday afternoon, I hit the Irish American Heritage Center’s fest solo for a couple hours, catching a bit of the Dooley Brothers with Kathleen Keane, a touch of Tupelo and getting some 2-for-$20 t-shirt shopping done.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was all by himself, too, roaming the grounds, trying to get people to sign a petition for a ballot initiative that would limit the mayor of Chicago to two terms.
I know many people don’t like Rahm, but unless you also limit the terms of city council members, wouldn’t one of them become the true power behind the throne?
A question for another day, I guess.
Lick Me I’m Irish. I almost said that to Quinn. I wanted to buy him an ice cream from the place that had that up as its slogan.
Instead I headed back to the burbs and ended my weekend by going Greek. St. Sophia’s in Elgin had its annual fest, and the beauty of it is they also set up a drive-through line where you order your food and bring it on home.
I drove over and ordered for Tom and his dad, daughter, her guy and their kid, and we sat around a table in the backyard feasting.
We finished it off with Raki, which was as close to Ouzo as Tom had.
Make your own anise joke.
Ain’t that America?