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Families step into 16th-century fun at Renaissance Fair

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It was a cold and rainy Saturday morning when Lady Bette Bernd waited an hour outside the palace gate for the guards to fire the cannon. She couldn’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be.

“It’s not usually cold,” said Bernd, who’s attended the Colorado Renaissance Festival for the past 15 years. Though the temperatures may have added some authenticity to the moment.

“But what is the weather in England like?” she asked.

The 34th annual family-run fair opened June 12 and runs for eight weekends. Over the course of the summer, about 200,000 people attend, said Jim Paradise, the fair’s marketing director.

The medieval theme park in Larkspur takes visitors on a tour of the 16th century, providing an opportunity for hard-core Reniassance fans and nonhistory buffs alike to experience a day-in-the-life of peasants up to kings and queens.

And it’s all done with pomp and circumstance — and a bit of comedy. The fair features jousting, comedians who have been trained in interactive theater, turkey legs, Guinness and more than 200 artisans hawking their wares.

At the sound of the cannon, Bernd, decked out in a blue velvet gown, and about 7,000 other ladies and lords made their way through the gate and entered the 60-acre, 16th- century village.

The guards greeted her with, “Good day, my lady.”

Inside were belly dancers, fairies, poets and rides sprinkled along the dirt roads.

As Bernd walked around the festival, she found a friend in Jennifer Schuurman, who was watching the comedy routine of the Washing Well Wenches with her husband and daughter. The two women greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek even though they had just met.

Schuurman wore custom-made accessories, including a brown-beaded chest wrap and a headband adorned with real goose wings.

“It’s like being an adult and getting to play dress-up,” she said.

Throughout the day, Schuurman and Bernd feasted on funnel cakes and treated themselves to some Coors Light.

“It’s like stepping back in time and being a part of history,” Schuurman said.

Up the dirt hill, Mark Sieve and John Gamoke were performing their 30-minute Puke ‘n’ Snot routine, a mock-Shakespearean act.

Sieve and his now-deceased partner Joe Kudla created the show in 1974. The act has been a regular at the festival since 1982. For 18 weeks, Sieve and Gamoke perform in Renaissance festivals throughout the country.

“We’re kind of like carnies, but we’ve got better teeth,” Sieve, who plays Puke, joked in his trailer after the show. “We’re going to do this until we get tired of it.”

Outside the trailer, the fair was still going strong. Artisans were blowing glass, making pottery, selling headdresses and masks and sculpting bronze and pewter. Each was stationed under a Tudor-style house.

Bone and antler ivory carver William Lloyd has been showcasing his work at the Renaissance festival for 12 years. He stands behind a glass counter filled with custom- made knives, daggers and swords.

As the crowds begin to die down, he realizes that it’s time to return to the 21st century. Some days are easier than others to get out of character.

“I wish I had a time machine to go back and forth so I can be here when I want to,” he said.



650 W. Perry Park Ave., Larkspur. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 1. Regular gate admission: $18.95 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 to 12. Order tickets early online to receive a discount. 303-688-6010 or visit for driving directions.

-By Lynette Zilio

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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