The arrow moves almost too fast to see — a momentary glimmer in sunlight. It’s the loud and lethal-sounding “thwack” of a steel-tipped aluminum shaft hitting its target that startles.
“The real deal, huh?” says Nino Murillo, half of the Altier Archers, bow still in hand.
Meanwhile, Peggy Mills, Murillo’s wife and the other half of the act, stands about 30 feet away. She has reached both hands to her head — actually, about 3 inches above her head — feeling for the arrow that has pierced the large apple there.
It must always be a large apple, the couple explain. Any act that includes shooting them from the head of your spouse should use the largest apples possible.
Mills and Murillo perform their genuine William Tell act (though history says it was actually Tell’s son who had to stand very, very still) at this year’s Renaissance Festival that, heralding yet another spring, opens Saturday in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains.
From this weekend until the beginning of April, the Renaissance lives, at least inside the re-created 16th-century village on 30 acres in Gold Canyon. That includes 200 shops, 12 stages, jousting, jesters, peasants, musicians, dancers, turkey legs, honeyed mead, pubs with cleavage -wielding serving wenches and, for the first time, a thrilling and potentially dangerous archery act.
Not only does Murillo shoot arrows at his wife — she shoots them back. Surprisingly, trust is not really an issue, she says.
“It’s the same as the other acts we used to do,” says the former trapeze artist. “I used to have to trust him to hold me 40 feet above the ground. He would hold me with one hand, I would flip my legs up and he would catch me by one leg.
“But as you get older, it gets harder, you know?” Mills says. “So, we were thinking, what could we do to stay in the business? We ended up in a summer camp teaching flying trapeze for the summer and there was an archery range for the kids, and we though that would kind of be a cool idea for a hobby.”
It turned into a profession after they met a Pennsylvania man, Tony Altier, who helped them fine-tune their shooting skills. They retaliated by naming their act after him.
So, for the past eight years, the Florida-based couple have performed their archery act in nightclubs, sport shows, circuses and, for the first time, at a Renaissance fair.
While their costumes are medieval, their equipment is not: Compound fiberglass 50-pound bows that operate with pulleys and a tension-release mechanism and that have been carefully sighted. “Which makes it a little more precise,” Nino says.
His arrows travel at 200 feet per second.
“That’s what makes it very dangerous,” Murillo says. “You have to have a lot of respect for the bow. Because it’s almost like a bullet. A lot of times you can stop a bullet with a sandbag, but you can’t stop an arrow, because of the design.”
Mills is ready for the next question. She hears it often.
“Knock on wood, we’ve never had an accident, I mean, you know, we’ve been pretty lucky,” she says. “I do wear a protective mask when we do the apple. I’m . . . smart.”
The 18th annual Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend starting Saturday through April 2
Where: East of Apache Junction on U.S. 60
Cost: Advance discounted tickets (online or at Fry’s stores) are $18 for adults and $6 for children 5 to 12. Tickets $2 more at gate.
Information: (520) 463-2700 or www.renfestinfo.com