The Flathead’s First Renaissance Faire

Event returns to the Majestic Valley Arena on July 31 and Aug. 1 after its debut weekend

By Maggie Dresser
A jouster catches rings on his lance at the Montana Renaissance Faire at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell on July 24, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In 2019 when Florida-based Olissio Zoppe brought his equestrian acrobatics show, Cirque Ma’Ceo, to the Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell, the audience feedback was so positive that the venue’s organizers asked him if he could return with a Renaissance Faire.

Even though Zoppe had never organized a Renaissance Fair, he was thrilled there was interest and jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to and I come from the entertainment world where I grew up doing Renaissance fairs,” Zoppe said. “The entertainment business is heavy in my blood and it’s a passion of mine.”

New this year, Zoppe put together the first Montana Renaissance Faire at the arena, filled with knights in epic battle, chariot racing, jousting and turkey legs in the fictional town of Terviso, which debuted on July 24-25 and will run again July 31-Aug. 1.

As a second-generation jouster, Zoppe grew up in equestrian show business and he stems from an Italian circus family where they did everything from movie stunt work to circus shows.

A juggler at the Montana Renaissance Faire at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell on July 24, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In the 1970s, Zoppe’s father, James Zoppe, started one of the first jousting groups in California and founded the American Jousting Alliance where he choreographed jousting shows and wrote the alliance’s Book of Rules and Guidelines. He also worked as a stunt coordinator at Universal Studios and starred in The Fisher King and numerous music videos, including for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bobby Brown.

With Zoppe’s connections, he was able to recruit talent from around the country, including The Rogues, an awardwinning Celtic band out of Houston, the Third Eye Archers out of Sandpoint and jousters from Wisconsin-based DeBracey Productions.

As the most anticipated event, jousting entails four riders competing in a choreographed event where they cut off the head of a would-be soldier complete with dramatic fake blood. Spectators can expect a personal experience with audience interaction.

Opal the Bubble Fairy and Lucy DeSpain make bubbles at the Montana Renaissance Faire at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell on July 24, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“They’re not only great riders but great actors as well,” Zoppe said. “They are just wonderful at their craft. We built the show around them.”

Chariot racing is another popular event where a pair of horses are hooked up to a chariot and compete in teams to battle in an epic fight scene. Other events include a pyro juggler, mounted archery and there are various characters including King Cosmo De Medici, the Baron of Treviso, Opal the fairy, Franceska the pirate and the royal court.

Local vendors will return for the second weekend and there will be traditional Renaissance cuisine including turkey legs, kebabs, mead, cider and ale.

Camping is available at the fair’s “rolling hills of Tuscany” located at the arena with “primitive” or “modern” camping with RV hookups.

“There are other places that I could have done this that are a lot closer to home but I was totally inspired by how beautiful the Flathead Valley is and how wonderful the people are,” Zoppe said.

“We’re just happy we pulled it off,” he added.

The Montana Renaissance Faire returns for its final weekend on July 31 and Aug. 1 with a masquerade theme.

For tickets, visit www.montanarenaissancefaire.com.

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