Once you’ve been bitten by the bug and attended a few, you might start wondering how to open a renaissance faire. There are over 250 fairs in 42 states in the US (California has 34 by itself) and they are fast becoming a popular hobby. There are renaissance faires for pirate lovers, medieval enthusiasts and even fantasy based faires.
A renaissance faire is a gathering where attendees dress up and act as if they are from another place and time—usually in the past. Most renaissance faires come through town at a certain time of the year, much like the traveling gypsy caravans of old. The faires are very much a commercial happening, where visitors have the opportunity to add to their costume collection by shopping at one of the many vendor booths. There are entertainers, musicians, handicrafts and authentic old festival foods. Many fans spend months researching and preparing their costumes and practicing their time period appropriate greetings.
Because of all of this attention to detail, opening a renaissance faire will be very hard work and because of all the stringent rules and regulations where any public gathering is concerned, it will also be exhausting and frustrating—at least in the planning stages. Opening a faire will cost a lot of money.
If you still like the idea of opening your own faire, here are the first steps to consider.
- Study as many faires as you can. Attend as an observer and ask questions. Planning a faire will require organization and list making.
- Decide what kind of faire you want to start. Will it be a historical faire set in a certain time period, or a fantasy faire accepting of any time period? How big do you want the faire to be? How many visitors do you envision attending your first year? Will there be entertainment, food stalls, and commercial booths? Do you want activities for the visitors or just a “come and look” faire the first year?
- Once you have a clear idea of the faire you want, you need to know where the funds to make this all happen will come from. How much money will you need? Who will manage the money and make decisions about how to spend it? An average sized faire might require between 200,000-300,000 dollars. Maybe more. Like all new businesses, the faire probably won’t turn a profit for the first few years.
- Now is the time, if you still want to move forward, to get a firm business plan drawn up. The plan will address legal matters such as: What type of business is this—is it a partnership or corporation? Who are the founding members and what are their responsibilities to the faire?
Once your business plan is in place, you can start looking for a location to hold the faire. Talk to property owners and managers to find the ideal location. You also want to consider the time of year for holding the faire—you don’t want to end up in direct competition with another already established fair in your area. Take note of the weather conditions when deciding when to have your fair—no one likes to walk around in heavy costume during a rain storm.
Once you have your permits and your location, the rest is just a lot of decision making and details that will take time to work out. Much of the process is by trial and error, but if you attend at least a dozen faires you will have a pretty good idea of what you want and don’t want to have. In the end, the success of your faire will depend on the visitors. If they have a wonderful time, not only will they tell all their friends about it, they will be sure to return next year to do it all over again.
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