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This year's Riverssance, Siouxland's favorite Renaissance festival, has been dubbed the Year of the Bagpipe by Fallen Friar Phil Claeys (whose full name would take up more than three pages all by itself), the director of the event. But why the year of the bagpipe?

Well, there will certainly be bagpipes involved, but Claeys is not willing to divulge what that exactly entails.

"I can say there will be more bagpipes than we usually have at the festival," Claeys said. "This year I hired a whole bunch of bagpipers, the group itself will play at allotted times throughout the day but that's all I'm saying."

As coy as Claeys is playing it on the bagpipe front, there are many events he's willing to talk about. For instance this year, there's going to be a walking puppet show and a brand new crew of jousters.

"We got this cool puppeteer," Claeys explained. "Getting them here speaks volumes of the reputation of this festival. Two weeks ago, we hear from the puppeteer group, ‘We've done East Coast and West Coast fairs and we want to be a part of yours.' These people are excited to come to see this, I'm not blowin' smoke."

Speaking with Lisa Hagar the puppeteer of Looking Glass Players, she said she is excited to come to Riverssance for the first time. Based out of Wichita, Kansas, Hagar and her husband travel all around the country to various fairs. While they used to do Renaissance fairs reigning as king and queen, they went into puppetry a few years back as an outlet to try something new and for something fun to do with their daughters.

"The star of the show will be Marko the Foolish Jester," explained Hagar who also created the puppet herself. "He will sing songs and tell jokes. He has a walk-around puppet stage, it looks like a round tent, then there's a stage in front, Marko, will sit in front, you won't see me but you will see my legs."

In this way Marko gets to be up close and personal with the kids and adults said Hagar.

Another person who gets to be up close and personal with kids and adults alike is the Riverssance king himself, Randy Chapman.

"I look forward to making people smile and having a quick interaction with as many people as possible," Chapman confided. "I like flipping from doing something that interests a child, and then doing something that adults will like as well."

While Chapman said his title does come with a certain amount of power, he admitted he doesn't think anyone else wants the job, which is why he's been king now for a few years. However, he is grateful Riverssance isn't a completely by-the-book Renaissance fair.

"If we were completely historical there's about 2/3rds of the group I wouldn't be able to talk to -- the king wouldn't talk to peasants and I like talking to everyone," Chapman said. "Our fair is more lenient as far as the time period we portray and the interaction between all of the characters."

At this fair, the Renaissance accent is known as BFA or best fair accent because it makes it a lot easier for those who don't have a perfect old world British accent but still allows for a different flavor.

"I try to stay with what I have created as an accent," Chapman said. "I wouldn't want to be like Kevin Costner in ‘Robin Hood' when he went in and out of his accent in every other scene. Consistency is key."

One of the things the king does oversee is the Pirate Smoker, an hour long bawdy adult-themed variety show that includes a turkey leg and as much beer as possible for its audience. Although he does look forward to the Smoker every year, Chapman and Claeys alike are excited for the new adventures of the jousting crew, Joust Evolution. Out of Kansas City, this jousting company (yes, there are multiple ones across the country) is different because they combine theater and real jousting instead of just focusing on one.

"When we ride, we try to hit each other really hard because it's fun to hit hard," said company creator Kevin Coble. "Sometimes our riders decide who's going to win, but we have multiple endings. You can't dictate the lances so we have multiple fail safes. The passes are very unpredictable."

So what does it feel like to be hit at full speed by a lance?

"You don't feel where it hits you, you just feel a big push -- a big jerking motion," Coble said.

A hockey player in his younger days, Coble was drawn to jousting because of the physicality of it. But that doesn't mean the horses are harmed in any way.

"We don't do anything that would harm the horses," Cobel said. "Shoot we spoil the horses rotten. They enjoy it and look forward to it. You can hear the horse puff up when it's show time."

As far as show time is concerned, Claeys is more than ready for the return of everyone to the Kingdom of Riverssance.

"This is like a family reunion," Cleys said. "As long as I can, I will be a part of this fair. The main thing with me is my concern for the community aspect - it's important this continues when I'm no longer here."



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