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Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur invites thousands to sample history

By: Alison Noon alison.noon@gazette.com
July 9, 2013 Updated: July 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm
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photo - Wyatt Frank, 4, holds hands with his cousin Bela Barr, 7, as they walk through the streets of the Colorado Renaissance Festival Saturday, July 6, 2013. Saturday marks the start of one of the busiest weekends as the festival invites children under the age of 12 to the faire for free. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Wyatt Frank, 4, holds hands with his cousin Bela Barr, 7, as they walk through the streets of the Colorado Renaissance Festival Saturday, July 6, 2013. Saturday marks the start of one of the busiest weekends as the festival invites children under the age of 12 to the faire for free. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Princess Elizabeth is marrying the bad guy, but you wouldn't know it if you saw her at the 34th annual Colorado Renaissance Festival.

"I have been known to spit on him," said Kristy Ekiss, who has played the princess in the festival's royal court for the past six years.

On the festival's jousting field in Larkspur, Sir Joseph of Moldavia dies a villain every few weeks while fighting for her hand. He's the black-clad and booed knight in combat jousting performed three times a day through the festival's end, Aug. 4.

Off the field, when they weren't wearing armor and surcoats, Brian Fertal proposed to Ekiss at Garden of the Gods.

"That's why I joined this company, to be with her," said Fertal, a knight for nearly 20 years.

The Colorado Renaissance Festival sees plenty of romance in its eight weekends of knife throwing, comedic theater and lion taming. An average of 200,000 people have attended each summer for the past 20 years, said Jim Paradise Jr., marketing director and son of the festival owner.

Saturday was the first day of Children's Weekend at the festival, when admittance for anyone younger than 12 was free.

About 15,000 people walked through the gates Saturday, Paradise said, and turnout usually builds from this weekend.

Rocky Mountain Festivals built a kingdom in the late 1970s that today totals more than 200 structures on 42 of its 400 mountainous acres in Larkspur.

Baby strollers were heaved around the hilly, medieval scene Saturday, an authentic Renaissance experience that costs $19.95 for anyone 13 or older.

"If you can't do an accent, you can't be on cast," said Ekiss, who auditioned to be an actor in the festival's staff.

That makes all the difference to Mary Fikes, a Colorado Springs resident who holds the festival in high regard for its actors' effort.

"I drove four hours to go to the one in Texas and this one is just incredible in comparison," Fikes said of the Colorado Renaissance Festival. "They fake the accents, they get into it, they enjoy themselves."

Saturday was her eighth visit to the Larkspur event in two years. In that time, one show has grown to be her favorite of the festival's 17 stage performances.

Puke and Snot was the show on everyone's lips this weekend. Mark Sieve, better known as "Puke," has performed the comedy show with comrade "Snot" for the past 32 years in Larkspur, but this year will be their finale because of contractual differences.

Sieve said he has discussed franchising the popular comedy show with the Paradise family. Both parties agreed a clone Puke and Snot are likely in the Colorado Renaissance Festival's future.

Meanwhile, Sieve and longtime actor-friend John Gamoke, who replaced Joe Kudla as "Snot" after Kudla's death in 2008, shook hands and signed autographs Saturday for decades-long Colorado fans.

"I've gotta come up with a new favorite now that they're leaving," Fikes said.

Bryan Beard has performed in the festival for almost as long a time as Puke and Snot. Beard, director of jousting with Noble Cause Productions, began jousting in Larkspur when he was 21, he said. Now at 48, he foresees at least another decade atop his horse.

Beard said the men avoid injury by practicing several choreographed scenarios, which are rotated each weekend.

"The bad side always dies," Beard said. "We have so many kids, we want everyone to leave with a good experience. We want them to see good does win in the end."

This year, that knight has typically been played by Fertal, who doesn't stand with his princess at the festival because of their contradictory roles.

"Whenever you step through the gates here, you're transported back in time," Beard said.

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