Meaty, Elizabethan, black-eyed ideas for iFest
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org July 10, 2012 6:12PM
Former Elgin resident Anne Quiaoit plays a Marionette puppet who has her strings pulled by a man on stilts inside a puppet outfit at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin. Mike Danahey~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:10AM
This past weekend, like most weekends in summers past, I hit a couple outdoor festivals.
But this year, I am a man with a plan: I want to help Elgin broaden its Sept. 2 International Fest (aka iFest) beyond pancakes or tablet computers.
From attending the Lake in the Hills Rockin’ Rib Fest, I learned that if the weather cooperates, a celebration of meats can surely draw crowds. Heck, you can charge $23 for a slab of ribs, and people will pay it if they’re having a good time, and it’s for a good cause.
If political correctness doesn’t allow Elgin to go totally carnivore, maybe serving ethnic pizzas would bring in patrons. Bob Zajac from Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood emailed me — after I wrote about the chili cheese dog pie at Rosati’s — to tout the sauerkraut version at his Pudgy’s Pizza & Sandwiches.
Elgin has two Thai places, a Vietnamese place, a soul food joint, a new pizzeria eventually set to open downtown, dozens of taquerias, a Puerto Rican joint, Chinese eateries, plenty of places with foods white people like to eat, and an aging buffalo at its one-pen zoo, so this could work. And who but my co-worker Dave Gathman doesn’t like pizza?
Also, the rib fest illustrated that bands proficient with cover versions of songs or that peaked a couple decades ago can be draws.
With the theme of iFest — and that the cycle for nostalgia gets shorter every month — I’d like to suggest booking the multi-ethnic Black Eyed Peas, whose career path seems headed toward town festivals.
The Peas could even re-create the flash mob dance they staged for Oprah. Remember Oprah? Oh, how I miss last decade. It seems like it was just two or three years ago ... .
From a visit to the Bristol Renaissance Faire across the border in Wisconsin, I found out that while they might not be international, or even an ethnic category on the census form, re-enactors should qualify for minority status.
I told some friends I was going — and wearing a black kilt — and got called “dork” and “nerd.” If that isn’t re-enacatorism, I don’t know what is.
Plus, Ren Faire people could just as easily fill the English quota on diversity day as some annoying Beatles cover band.
Ed Dawson of Elgin is a veteran performer up at the Bristol Ren Faire, which opened last Saturday for weekends through Sept. 3.
Dawson used to be a volunteer in a military unit, but now he’s paid to be a bodyguard for a chief high justice who is on the trail of Robin Hood.
Dawson and his fellow thespians put on six scripted scenes during the course of a day and every 15 minutes or so stage an improvised fight.
These guys are pretty good with swords, which could come in handy in Elgin, too, keeping pit bulls and Presa Canarios away from firefighters, if nothing else. Heck, they could have come in handy at the Northwest Fourth Fest fireworks, where a lack of traffic control meant it took 90 minutes to get from Cabela’s back to Route 72.
Dawson even knows how to sew together an outfit, as does budding actress Anne Quiaoit, whom Elgin could hire at iFest to keep bratty children and dopey drunks in line.
At the Ren Faire, Quiaoit plays a marionette puppet who has her strings pulled by a dude on stilts inside a puppet outfit.
Yes, it’s unnerving. Quiaoit said the unsettling effect is because she moves in ways humans normally don’t move. Either way, it’s caused teens to scream and kids to cry.
The Ren Faire gave me another idea if iFest sticks — or isn’t eventually sued by Apple.
People there use Elizabethan England as a mere stepping stone for playing dress-up. Sure, you have your proper Tudors hoping it doesn’t reach 100 degrees as they mill about in their finery.
But you also have Visigoths, a guy in 2012 garb carrying a stuffed wolf, chubby men in kilts with foxtails hanging off their butts, guys who think they are Jack Sparrow, folks wearing horns, teen girls dressed as fairies, people dressed up like extras from Avatar, dudes pretending to be wood nymphs, belly dancers in chainmail tops, steampunks in their H.G.-Wells-meets-Steve-Jobs garb, a Gandalf or two, a Dumbledore, Star Wars stormtroopers and Wisconsinites in tank tops.
Quiaoit said she enjoys seeing people get out of their shells for an afternoon at the Ren Faire.
Which is to say visiting Bristol, which is marking its 25th anniversary season, is like shopping at a timeless Walmart while eating a turkey leg or a pickle on a stick. Which would make it a ye olde Sam’s Club or a Costco, but they don’t have a website like this: www.peopleofwalmart.com.
And there’s my hook: Pretty much everybody has shopped at a big-box store. It’s one of the things that unite us as Americans.
So, to celebrate our diversity, get one of these huge companies to sponsor. Put aisles in Festival Park and stuff them with nachos, plantains, corned beef, barbecue, Sriracha hot chili sauce, bratwurst, French maid outfits, Cheez Whiz and Bud Light.
To paraphrase the genius that is will.i.am (if not Shakespeare): I’ve gotta feelin’ ... .