Dianne Spies plays "Beauty" to Mark Townsend's "Beast" at the 16th annual Kansas City Renaissance Festival, under way weekends through Oct. 18 at Bonner Springs.
A Kansas University student who works part time at Teller's restaurant, Spies said in an interview last week she liked all the hand kissing and bowing that comes Beauty's way but when strolling noblemen look deeply into her eyes and recite love poems to her, "I just turn bright red."
The Beast, actually a medieval prince who, in real-life, lives in Kansas City, tries to appease her with presents of every size and shape including fairgoers' small children.
"I'm pretty self-absorbed," Spies said of her Beauty.
According to festival officials, the KU student is one of several area residents involved in doing everything from selling crafts and singing songs to playing music, tending horses and cooking at the festival.
Melissa Addison, another KU student, from Tonganoxie, turns into Talaerie, a jousters' squire, for the festival. Experience with her family's appaloosa horses won her the post about six years ago, which she now juggles with studying and working at a Bonner Springs antique mall.
AS A SQUIRE, though, she's not dealing with appaloosas. The festival's jousting horses are two draft horses Hank, a Belgian, and Dolly, a Percheron, and two Arabians Charles (called Chuckles) and Baber, pronounced "baa-bear."
"They're the gentlest horses," Addison said of the draft animals, which are considerably bigger than regular riding horses. "They're like big babies."
Both horses and jousters are professionals hired out of Florida to present the dangerous jousting exhibitions, Addison said, noting the men's protective armor weighs 75 pounds and the horses' weighs 25.
"The falls are not planned, and the hits everybody sees are real," she added.
For the jousts, Addison assumes the persona of a Gaelic girl. One of her real-life friends from Shawnee Mission plays Talyana, her festival twin and also a squire.
EVENTUALLY, the Tonganoxie resident said, she'd like to be one of the festival's street characters, "if I get my nerve up for an audition."
Other Lawrence residents involved include members of Full Circle, a folk music group; singer John Andrews; and Janice and Elisha Friedman, volunteer cooks in the ``soup kitchen.''
Janice Friedman said she and Elisha, her daughter, volunteer just on Sundays, wearing costumes and cooking soup in a big caldron just for the fun of it.
Full Circle Marianne Schnebel, Cindy Egger, Deborah Pine and Steve Riley are completing their fifth year at the festival, and plan to follow up this year's appearance with an Oct. 23 concert at the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth.
IN JUXTAPOSED 20th century-medieval terms, Schnebel said they "hang out" at a "hovel" the Miller's Daughter's wheat-weaving booth and play at different locations on the festival grounds throughout the day.
"It's kind of old-home week when the festival starts," she said, noting they first played as substitutes and were invited to return as regulars.
"It's our opportunity to really focus on Irish music, and that's always fun," she said, noting many of their concerts are a mix of folk music.
Throughout the year, Schnebel said, Full Circle continues to play some of the Irish tunes popular at the festival through school and other community concerts, which often are partially funded by the Kansas Arts Commission and Mid-America Arts Alliance.
Among area craftspeople with their own festival booths are Debra Davison-Jennings and Jody Karson-Thurman, who make ceramic and macrame creations together at "Ye Lady's Knot Home," Russ and Carol Beeson of Silver Hawk Leather, and Bruce Bonebrake, who does woodcrafts.
DAVISON-JENNINGS and Mrs. Beeson, who will be at a Texas Renaissance festival together later this fall, said they joined the ranks of "old hands" at the Bonner Springs festival some time ago.
"We've been doing this 12 years," said Davison-Jennings. "You have a real strong bond."
She and Karson-Thurman began in August to prepare little gnomes, jesters and flying toads and horses to sell in Bonner Springs. Some of their designs, Davison-Jennings said, originated with her first partner, Dave Leach, and remain popular today.
"It's like cramming for finals," she said of the preparatory approach. But both women have other jobs Davison-Jennings works at The Bay Leaf, a local culinary shop, and is a homemaker with a husband and two children; Karson-Thurman is a landscaper and recent bride.
THE PAIR do a few other crafts sales and shows together, and Davison-Jennings noted the festival "is just a giant crafts show that lasts several weekends."
She also said that for her, the festival has been a family affair too, with her husband helping out at the booth and her children dressing in character.
Son Toby, 6, learned to walk there, she said, and daughter Cody, 12, has "grown up out there. She has little jobs," like baby-sitting for the knife-thrower's younger child.
"We've met a lot of people through her bringing actors and other people back (to the booth) for us to meet," Davison-Jennings said.
Mrs. Beeson said her children Irene, 12, Rebecca, 10, and Dean, 4 also have grown up at the festival, while she and her husband have been selling their handmade leather goods.
THE COUPLE'S first Renaissance festival was in 1980 in Larkspur, Colo., she said, and after moving to Lawrence six years ago, they became involved with the Kansas City Art Institute's effort as well.
In Bonner Springs, she said, officials originally OK'd the couple's participation with hand puppets that Mrs. Beeson was making but her husband persuaded them to allow sale of the leather goods as well, and those are what captured the buying public's eye.
Using his construction skills, she said, he's built them two booths over the years on the festival grounds as well as booths at other Renaissance festivals, including ones in Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona.
Their participation in festivals elsewhere has been cut back recently, she said, because two of their children are now in school and her husband is working full time in construction.
"I guess we're settling down," she said. "Right now, the benefits of Russ' full-time job outweigh the adventure of being on the road so much."
MOST OF their leathergoods are made in the basement of the couple's retail store, 1021 Mass., where Mrs. Beeson works while son Dean amuses himself with the tools of his mother's trade.
At the festival, the 4-year-old is Robin Hood this year, speaking "the King's English" like any other "old hand."
"It's fun to go out and be someone else," Davison-Jennings said of the experience of dressing up and using the festival's version of `olde English.'
One year, she said, she was the Pink Pirate, complete with an array of antique weaponry decorated with pink bows. Another, she was Harvest Queen, with a hat made from a wicker cornucopia and decorated with chicken bones, dried corn and gourds, and feathers.
"I think you do all those things you didn't do as a little kid," she said, adding: "Halloween's a piece of cake after this is all over."