Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Back to the Renaissance Festival

Wick's World


Dressed in black from the boots to the hat, I looked like a miniature Johnny Cash walking amongst a village of gypsies. I wore the outfit because I was returning from my friend’s graveside, which I had been tending the six weeks since he had died. The crowds of gypsies gathered around me were the vendors, artisans, actors and craftsmen from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

I was driving through Shakopee when I noticed cars were pouring into the festival site. I knew it was open on the last Friday of the show, so this was as good a time as any to buy a ticket and reminisce.

Now in its 40th year, the last time I worked there was 1989, the 15th season. I could hardly believe it had been 25 years since I had seen my old friends from the "Circuit" as we called it back then. For us who earned our keep as Renaissance participants, the Circuit consisted of Shakopee, Kenosha, Waxahachie, Plantersville, Bonner Springs and Larkspur. You might recognize these as host cities for the Minnesota, Wisconsin, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and Colorado Renaissance Festivals.

As I approached the entrance, it now had a mile-long detour around a huge crater in order to reach the front gate.

The rumor was spreading that 2015 may indeed be the last of this stalwart of Twin Cities autumn entertainment known as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, the country’s largest. The gravel and sand upon which this 15th century village was created is now worth much more than the festival itself. So much has been removed from the earth surrounding the site that soon the safety of the village may be in jeopardy.

I made many good friends over the years I had spent on the Circuit and today I hoped was my chance to visit as many as possible; if indeed any were still there. I knew my good friend and former business partner, Bob Sawyer, would be there making moccasins. He still had Beaver Tracks Bootery, the company a handful of us had started some 35 years ago in Sturgeon Lake.

I was pretty sure the former hockey pro from Canada, Billy McRae, would still be promoting his copper burning trade. Indeed, I found him at his booth. He instantly recognized me and greeted me with his raspy voice, the result of an errant hockey puck to the throat.

A few booths down stood Hidden Pines Leather, where I immediately recognized the proprietor named Gail.

“I know you,” I said.

Gail looked up from behind the counter, “It’s Wick!”

“That’s pretty good for 20-some years,” I told her.

“Oh, I recognized your voice before I even saw you,” she stated. “The last time we visited was when you had just returned from Copper Canyon in Mexico.” We talked about that trip and talked some more about old times; then I moved on.

I saw only a few more people I recognized. Sure enough, the entertaining duo of "Puke and Snot" was still performing on their same old stage.

Gone from the stage adjacent to our booth was the pair of magicians named "Penn and Teller." I would have loved to chew the fat with them — not about the old days, but about their success since they took their show to Broadway. They became a phenomenal sensation and now bask in the fame and fortune that follows them. A far cry from the weekends they spent on the Circuit passing around a basket for tips.

Six hours later, I said my good-byes, making no promise that I would return for the final season, although I would certainly try. I had plenty of time to remember the day as I was stuck in traffic on dreadful Highway 169 trying to get home.

I looked like a worn-out Johnny Cash who had just left a band of gypsies in the dust.


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