REXBURG — The flame spews out of Ainsley Furgason’s mouth, a blazing orange serpent cutting across the blue afternoon sky. Furgason pauses for a moment, then launches another plume of fire from his lips.
And that’s just one of the awesome things you’ll see at the inaugural East Idaho Renaissance Faire. The event began last Friday and Saturday and will resume this coming weekend at the Kennedy Ranch in Hibbard, just outside Rexburg at 151 North 12th West in Madison County.
The Faire sprouted from an idea Mathew Jensen and Eric Jordan Phillips had a few years back when the two of them were college roommates. Jensen took the idea and ran with it, developing an idea for a renaissance event he could put on here in eastern Idaho.
“Mathew came up to me and said ‘I do have a concept for something we can put on for east Idaho,” Phillips said. “We don’t have a local Renaissance Faire in this area. It’s very popular in the south, but we don’t have anything like that here.”
Jensen and Phillips spent several months taking their ideas around to local businesses to rally support and sponsorship. They met with vendors and also approached Groupon as a way to supply tickets.
“It was really a first-time thing for us,” Phillips said. “So we worked with what we could see from other Renaissance Faires and when we encountered a problem, we got inventive and we worked around it.”
The organizers also went to Brigham Young University-Idaho to recruit performers to put on the Faire’s feature event — a live sword fighting tournament.
The performers involved in the sword fights went through intense training to learn how to handle weapons. “It’s about six weeks of fight training,” said Jensen. “Each one of our knights has put in hundreds of hours just fighting.”
“Choreography for fights like these is very time-consuming and very hard and if you make a mistake, it is dangerous,” Jensen added. The weapons training gets drilled into the performers until they can perform the moves instinctively.
While the tournament is the Faire’s main event, that’s far from the only reason to go. Visitors get a chance to hob-knob with the knights. Vendors offer crafts and food to visitors. The Society of Creative Anachronism is on hand to recruit those who may want to don some armor and swing a sword around themselves.
The Faire also features live music and magic tricks and fire eating courtesy of Furgason. Jensen and Phillips hope to draw in college students, as well as families, and to that end, the Faire offers a little something for everyone.
“People have been enthusiastic about it because this is not something that this area typically has,” Jensen said. “It’s unique, it’s different and it’s something that everyone has wanted for a while, actually.”
“It’s a rare opportunity to see one of Mathew’s ideas come to front,” Phillips said. But when they do come to front, they’re very big, marvelous and imaginative.”
Jensen hopes to make the Faire an annual event, and sees the event as an opportunity to make memories for attendees. “I remember going to Faire when I was a child and seeing all the fun things,” he says. “The fire eaters or the magicians or the knights … part of the reason I decided to do this was to do something that helped the community but also helped people make memories.”
As for the future, Jensen hopes for his Faire to grow into something akin to the Faires he attended growing up. “We want everyone in Idaho to look forward to this event. We want it to be big. We want people to enjoy it. And we want people to come back year after year after year.”
The East Idaho Renaissance Faire offers fun for all ages and runs Friday July 28, and Saturday July 29. For more information (and to get a taste of the sword fight action), visit the Faire’s official website or their Facebook page.