As I've navigated a number of the forums here and some of the threads, I've noticed a trend in the last few years of some long-standing renaissance festivals closing their gates (as it were). I've seen pictures of one faire out east (Virginia maybe?) that closed several years ago and is already being taken over by underbrush and woodland growth. In fairness, I also know of a number of new faires that have opened their gates in recent years - albeit on a smaller scale than some that have been lost.
In the case of my home faire, KCRF, which is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year, it is in the fifth year of a provisional 20-year lease with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas. The provisional part of the lease called for Midwest Festivals, Inc. (owner of KC, MN, MI, BARF and one or two more faires) to relocate their offices to the faire site (they've done that) and to plan and implement a way (or ways) for the festival to generate taxable income on a year-round basis (or nearly year-round) rather than just generating income for 7 weeks out of each year. It's understandable because the acreage KCRF leases from the unified gov't. isn't out in the boonies anymore - it's adjacent to the new Kansas Speedway NASCAR track and the high revenue-generating developments immediately next to the track. (Including the Legends Mall, the mega-huge Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's and lots of other retail, lodging and dining establishments.)
When KCRF's original 25-year lease was up five years ago - Jim Peterson had to bid on the site against several other interested parties - some of whom wanted to continue with having a renaissance festival on the site - some of whom wanted to bulldoze the site for parking for the Verizon Ampitheatre. Peterson won the bid, but with the provisions I've stated above and others. Now, five years down the pike the only changes that have been made is to add a triple-wide trailer to the site to house the year-round staff and the addition of a very lame "feasting hall" which is not enclosed and shoddily built. The management has added a "Dracula's Feast" that takes place about four or five weekend evenings, seats a small number of people and provides pretty damned amateurish entertainment along with a mediocre meal.
I dunno - call me stupid, but I don't think that paultry effort is going to sustain another 45 weeks of taxable revenue for the Unified Gov't. There are now rumours abounding matching my 5-year-old predictions that Jim Peterson wasn't about to sink money into this faire - he was going to glide out the five-year provision with as little expenditure of capital as possible, suck as much out of the festival as possible then let the Unified Gov't do as it will. If that means he loses the lease, he wouldn't even have to pay to have the site bulldozed if whomever the new tenant might be so desired. If we're lucky and the unified gov't sees the value of keeping a renaissance faire under new ownership on the site - the new owners will most certainly have to start from zero and sink significant capital into the site which is now pretty pathetic and certainly not up to modern codes.
I heard recently that Peterson's lease on his Minnesota faire is also up this year, and several years ago he lost the temporary site upon which BARF was held. Additionally, I understand his Michigan site is getting very weather-worn as well. It would make sense to me if the man just got out and retired - he's certainly of an age to do that.
I relate all of that because I'm wondering if anyone else sees this kind of trend at other faire venues across the country. Are renaissance festivals going the way of drive-in theatres, or merely a victim of poor management, bad marketing and money-grubbing owners? I'm of the opinion that most of us who really love faire aren't really captains of industry and business. We're more an artsy-fartsy type. Of ourselves, we probably don't have the capital and management skills that would be necessary to make a faire (or a number of faires) highly profitable - although I'm sure a number of us have great ideas on how that could be accomplished or dreams of what we'd like to see.
So - waddya think? Are we riding on sinking ships - or is there a knight or warrior princess in shining armour with the capital and business savvy to make faires a good investment and a profit-making venture?