Imagine a time of queens and kings, knights and maidens, jousting, singing and magic. Now picture present time Richland, Wash., where every summer for the past 15 years, residents have had the opportunity to travel back to the year 1585 as part of the Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire.
The fair was established in 1986 by Marjorie Kunigisky, ex-president of the Allied Arts Association. As a former member of a similar performance group in California, she started the Greenwood Players, a touring group of actors, dancers and musicians representing the time of Elizabethan England. Kunigisky describes herself as a full-time volunteer for the non-profit organization and the fair.
"I'm the idiot responsible for the entire thing," she says.
Dean Kunigisky, a school bus driver and Marjorie's husband, is in charge of running the grounds for the fair. He is also a musician and portrays the mayor of Greenwood. The couple was married in 1984 and started the fair two years later.
"We wanted to be more involved in acting," he says. "I like creating things and watching them happen."
There are more than 200 members of Ye Merrie Greenwood Players, of which approximately 100 entertain in any given performance. The renaissance company tours year-round for a fee, which Marjorie Kunigisky says is reasonable but "not cheap."
The money raised from touring is used to put on the fair, which runs from June 30 through July 1 in Howard Amon Park. Nearly 4,200 people attend the English village each year to take part in the festivities and eat food from the time period. A total of 400 people, including vendors, are involved in entertaining the patrons. Several vendors sell goods from the 1500s.
There are at least two of everything, Kunigisky says, including jugglers, magicians, harpists and storytellers. There are even performances of William Shakespeare comedies and an actor portraying Shakespeare himself. In addition, there will be eight stages with simultaneous entertainment, which makes it almost impossible to see the whole fair in one day.
Still, she adds, "We're not a big fair -- they come much larger."
The Seattle Knights will be performing at the fair with shows three times daily. This audience favorite fights on foot and on horseback. A live chess game will also take place all weekend, where two players move real people instead of pieces. These "chess pieces" have various kinds of weaponry used for mock duels during the game.
William Lenzke, one of the Greenwood Players and a recent chemical engineering graduate, has been studying arms and armor since he was 10. Lenzke's job is to collect and study weapons from the time period to make sure they are accurate to the times and safe for the players. He is also the head percussionist and a dancer.
"I've been in the fair for nine years," Lenzke says. "My life revolves around this."
For the 15th anniversary, Kunigisky wanted something special. She decided to hire a real English judge, His Worship Peter J. Ellis, Queen's Justice, to preside over the Greenwood Court. Ellis currently lectures across the United States. He even has the authority to place misbehaving players in the stocks.
Whether you're a lord or a lady, a princess or joker, the return to Elizabethan England promises to be a good time for all.
"We've been stuck in the same week for 15 years," Kunigisky says.
The Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire is on June 30 and July 1, from 10 am to 5 pm at Howard Amon Park in Richland.
Tickets:$7 a day for adults, or $32 for a weekend pass for a family of four. Call: (509) 783-7727 or go to www.wizkeep.com.
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