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Author Topic: Why does a ren faire fail?  (Read 1298 times)

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Offline Dinobabe

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Why does a ren faire fail?
« on: April 24, 2015, 06:31:21 PM »
I was just wondering what you think are the top reasons a faire gets started and then doesn't make it?
Natasha McCallister
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Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 08:02:35 PM »
I am assuming that this question refers to a faire is an organized presentation of entertainers, food, games, and vendors within a given theme or time-frame. 

The ones I've seen fail (or never get off the ground) are those that (1) start off without a business plan; (2) have insufficient start-up capital; or (3) try to represent itself as a community of like-minded individuals joining in a wonderful experience where business is a dirty word.   

A lot of faires at least try include the community image as part of its existence, but the faire itself has to be run as a business with paying customers to have a steady stream of money coming in.  Absent an income from paying customers,  creators of a faire must indefinitely fund the faire through non-paying-customer means, or the faire will simply fade away.

This opinion does not include venues which are re-enactment oriented as those tend to be sustained through charitable or governmental agency funds. 

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Offline Rowan MacD

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2015, 09:16:41 AM »
  Agree with Polly.

  Most failed Faires are the 'shooting stars', put on by individuals (frequently vendors themselves). 
  These are little more than renaissance themed flea markets, held in city parks and sometimes even parking lots.    Entertainment is just about always 'tips only', and cast is either all volunteer or they pay a small fee to the local SCA or other reenactment troop to set up and act as royalty and/or and the majority of the combat type entertainment.
   Income is what they can charge at gate, and vendor fees, which are pretty much eaten up by the permit fees charged for the use of the venue.    I don't think many of these tiny tent faires have a business plan, other than to make a quick buck and die.  Polly describes them well.  They last about 1-2 years and are never heard from again. 

   The only really small faires (usually only one weekend, no hard site or permanent themed buildings) that I've seen persist; are the ones that as Polly mentioned, are sustained through fund raising entities; like Siouxland Renaissance Association in Sioux Falls-which solicits local businesses to 'sponsor' (pay for) big name entertainment groups to play at their faire.  That way they have good to excellent quality acts, from big venues that don't cost them anything to host. 
   Riverssance is put on as a part of the 'Rivercade' celebration in Sioux City.  The city sponsors and helps pay for the Joust, and provides the venue and advertisement; they even pay for fireworks.
  The rest of the cast are volunteers.  If there is enough in the yearly budget they will bring in some surprise entertainers like the Rogues or Cast in Bronze for one time gigs.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 09:21:11 AM by Rowan MacD »
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Offline Orphena

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2015, 02:04:39 PM »
I agree that a business plan is needed, but you also need passionate leadership. You need a creative businessperson who enjoys both sides and is willing to take some risks. It is difficult to find people who can balance both sides.

 Here in Ontario, we have several short festivals - each only run for a weekend. All sites are soft site since we lost our permanent site for the Ontario Renaissance Festival - which was sold to housing developers. Although that festival was run by the same group that does the Maryland festival, I heard that the profit growth in Ontario was far inferior to the one in Maryland which is why they pulled out.

Our smaller faires are generally run by different groups, and there is a general communication between the groups to try to stay off each other's weekends and not flood the market. I usually attend about 4 different local festivals, and am on the cast for 3 of them. I can usually see my vendor friends at about 2 of the 4 faires, so there is definitely some overlap for the vendors.

I've seen faires run by people who are passionate about festivals, and I've seen faires run by people who are business minded. Some people who run festivals try to make too many of the decisions, and some don't give enough direction. I've learned that what you lack in skills must be made up for in a solid board of organized people willing to work with you. Running a faire takes a lot of work - more than most people understand -  and a weekend faire takes almost as much work as a permanent site that runs for several weeks. People leave the board over artisitic differences, or unclear expectations. Some people don't pull their weight - they got involved because it sounded fun. It is then difficult to replace them with someone who gets your vision and who has the correct balance of creativity, organization, and understanding of what to spend (or not spend) your money on.

Putting on a faire is costly, as was previously mentioned. Volunteers need support and direction, and genuine thank yous in order to want to return (or perks of some kind). Cast costs money, as does costumes, entertainment, and venues suck up a lot of the budget. All this work is for an outdoor event that may tank due to weather - a rainy day for a weekend festival means you may only get 50 people into the gate for that day. If you are running a long term festival, the other 7 weekends will make that $$ up - for a 2 day festival, you are less likely to recoup your costs.

My dream, and that of others like me, is that we would one day regain a permanent site - even if that meant sharing it with several different groups.  I'd want an indoor hall that could be rented off season to keep funds coming in.

Advertising is also a necessary cost, and needs to be done well. Know your audience, and where to find them. Know where to reach people who MIGHT be interested in coming. You need to go to events where people dress up or learn about history and talk up your festival. You need to find new vendors and entertainment so that your "faithfuls" don't get bored.

You need to know your audience - what do they like, what did they not like? Did you have enough food for a decent price? Do they feel like they are getting their money's worth? are there decent accommodations near by? Are there enough things to delight the kids? The husbands?

Too many people identify problems and don't offer solutions. We are quick to complain, but slow to get involved to help solve the problem. Perhaps our comment cards should have a section where we can suggest solutions!


« Last Edit: April 29, 2015, 02:11:23 PM by Orphena »
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Offline Rowan MacD

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2015, 06:36:15 PM »
Advertising is also a necessary cost, and needs to be done well.
  ^^THIS^^.
  Advertisement, reputation, and word of mouth are probably the most valuable  (and most costly)  components for putting on a faire.   A few posters and flyers ain't gonna do it.
 You need to get on TV.  You need to get radio spots.   But because this expense can easily suck up all the profits for a one weekend or a small faire; they tend to be the first thing that is discarded as undoable
   You wont have anybody show up if they don't know you're there.  And they won't know you exist without media coverage, end of story.

   Some suggestions:  When we were still doing just one weekend, the royal court cast members volunteered to answer donation phones on the local Public access channel-in costume. 
   The cameras were on them, as they sat at the phones in the back ground, and the channel gave them a free promo.  Different characters were invited to describe themselves (in character) and invite the television audience to visit the faire.  It worked.  Note:  Someone got the idea when the company they worked for asked for volunteers to man the phones at the studio, while wearing polo shirts with the company logo on them.  Cool.
  The local papers will usually ask to publish a story on the faire.  Last year was the first time we were photographed and  interviewed (I was one of the photos that made it into the paper last year), and we expect that the same photos will be trotted out this year to announce upcoming events in the news.
  I haven't checked; our faire starts this weekend.  The site owners are springing for the TV commercial.
   
   
   
   
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Offline Lady Renee Buchanan

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2015, 08:53:17 PM »
Something else that is important.  You need to have a large pool of patrons to pull from, i.e., a large enough metropolitan area close enough to pull from.  The more people in the surrounding area, the more possible attendees you can have.

Also, the site itself must be easily accessible and easy to find.  One local weekend  faire closed after 5 years.  The first 2 years, it was up and down a huge hill.  The next year it was changed to another site, with an even worse hill.  It was so bad, the vendors at the bottom of the hill sold almost nothing, because people didn't want to walk back up after seeing what was down there.  The last year, they moved it again, to a campground about 35 minutes from the small city (60,000 people) out in the boondocks.  It was too long a drive for people who had no idea of what a Renaissance faire really was.
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Offline Dinobabe

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2015, 01:33:41 PM »
Thank you for the responses!

How much would you say the cast, costuming, scripting play a role in a faire doing well or not?
Natasha McCallister
Bristol Faire 1988-2005
The Wizard's Chamber/Sir Don Palmist
59.2% FaireFolk Corrupt
midsouthrenfaire.com

Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Why does a ren faire fail?
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2015, 02:55:00 PM »
As for cast, costuming, etc., I would say very little with failure simply because they all seem to do the best they can in whatever circumstances they find themselves.  I have not seen a performer yet who came across as doing anything less than their best.  The only negative impact I've seen is when entertainers start leaving (underpaid, not paid, contracts lapse because management decided to go cheaper, etc.).

As for success, yes, they have impact because people will actually go to faires to see their favorite performers.   Scripting, yes, things like the schools at Scarborough, the different courts throughout TRF, and the new Siege at Sherwood, all different, but all pulling people into the experience.

A lot of the energy of a faire comes from the entertainers (and vendors to the extent they are entertainers even in busking).  Anybody who has been at Sherwood in the rain or when the temperature drops to almost freezing knows the dedication of those people.  The only time I've seen anybody cut any slack was for the dogs in a couple different acts.  The dogs would have tried, but the humans made sure they were kept warm and dry.  The humans, on the other hand, kept working. 

Polly PoPo
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