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Author Topic: Choosing Faire Location  (Read 909 times)

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Offline Kezip

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Choosing Faire Location
« on: May 07, 2015, 08:25:08 AM »
Hello all! I'm new here and a long-time attendee of the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival.

I was wondering:
What constitutes a good location for faire grounds? I mean that as an open-ended question, I'm specifically curious about the following:

What's an optimal distance to the big city or cities?
I know conventional wisdom is that closer to the big city is better, but I run a business hosting dances for teens, and I found I could get more kids from the less populated rural areas around the city and they took less work to please. Most of my 'Street Team' lives about an hour away, no less. Is there a 'diminishing returns' for faires?

How close to basic amenities like hotels, food, gas, etc would you want?

Size of land--are there any rules of thumb to go by here?

Land itself; is undeveloped forestland a good route?

People--are there any 'tells' to see if people in the area appreciate our 'offbeat' tastes?

I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts and experiences on this. Thanks!

Offline Merlin the Elder

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2015, 09:55:32 AM »
From a playtron's perspective:

I would want a hotel within 20-30 minutes of faire grounds.  If I were a camper, and you had camping facilities, obviously, that wouldn't be an issue. Your business plan would need to include how many patrons would be required to make it pay, and reasonable proximity to your audience would be a plus.

Size of land would depend on how large you would ever want to get, whether you will have permanent structures. I would hazard to guess that your parking area will need to be even larger than your park area, plus area for your performers to camp on, and additional if you intend on having patron camping. I can see easily eating up 150 acres for an average size hard faire.

Forestland will cost more to clear for parking, but if it's good timber, you might be able to sell to a timber company and let them pay you for part of the work. For the inside of the park, lots of trees would be nice.

What do you mean by "offbeat?" I would talk with community leaders around possible target sites.

You would need to start with a lot of money, to do it right. Don't forget about the infrastructure required. There needs to be water and sewer, if you're going to have flushies, or even on-site food prep.  Cell phone service is going to be needed by the vendors. Electricity.

There have been a few successful startups in the past few years... there have been a lot of failures. Just faire warning...
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Offline Rowan MacD

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2015, 11:19:31 AM »
 Can't really give any constructive ideas unless we have more info:

 Hard site or temporary?  Do you own the land, or will you lease?

 How many days will this run?

 What will this entail?  It would be nice to know the theme: Renaissance? Celtic? medieval?
 In each of these cases-the vendors/entertainment will probably be different.

I would assume that right now, you are considering a small 'tent faire' : no permanent buildings or facilities, and potentially held on public land with little modern amenities and no real infrastructure for parking, camping. etc.
    If the  site is not enclosed-you will need to figure out how to  keep non paying customers out.   
   If this is unimproved land-you will need to figure out how to make rudimentary accommodations for parking (i.e gravel and grading) and porta-potties. 

  This list goes on.

 As Merlin stated-It's not cheap to do it right. 
 On the other end of the scale-There are a plethora of 'Just-in-it-to-make- a-quick-buck' folks who throw together a glorified flea market and call it a faire.
   
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 11:35:25 AM by Rowan MacD »
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Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2015, 12:13:11 PM »
In addition to waiting for replies to your specific question, there are many threads on these forums about getting new faires off the ground, why many fail, why a few succeed, etc., that you might find interesting.   Since you are already in business, it sounds like perhaps you are interested more in faire as a business venture.  If that is the case, you might want to visit several more faires, big and small, in various states, as well as read these various threads.  You would also do well to actually study some of the successful faires to see how they were started, what makes them successful in the long run, and why they are still in business and many others failed or never even opened, after much dreaming, planning and actual work was accomplished.  Much of the history is in these forums and links.

As to your basic question regarding location:

As a customer, I’ll go with what Merlin said about parking, on-site facilities, close accommodations for overnight stays, cleared land vs uncleared, etc.

I would definitely add the following overall requirements:

If you are looking at a soft-site, tent vendor only faire, Rowan brought up some valid points.  In addition, it might support only one or two weekends in a season.  Location would need to be where there are potential customers.  Have you asked the kids attending your dances if they would be interested in such a faire?  Do they have money to spend at a faire?  If  not the young people, are there potential customers in the general population?  Are there vendors and performers available in the area?  Is there enough money to be made to support any vendors and performers?  Are there any physical locations available in the area (parks, private property, etc.)? 

If you are looking for something with permanent structures and a long-term viability, I would definitely add proximity to major highways, as well as major cities.  A faire in or within minutes of a city puts that faire in direct competition with all the other offerings of a city, as well as potentially limiting its growth in the long-run.  But a location that is too remote or difficult to get to will definitely discourage customers.  Putting a potential large faire right beside a small, traditional town might work or it might backfire. 

The best location is the well-researched one, with potential customers within a reasonable distance, and where there is enough money to support a faire.

Polly PoPo
(aka Grannie)

Offline BLAKDUKE

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2015, 03:43:35 PM »
Check all of the well established faires and see what their proximity to big cities is.  That should give you some idea.
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Offline Kezip

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2015, 06:40:51 PM »
Thanks for the input everyone! I was out after I wrote this and only just now saw the responses.

At the risk of talking about myself too much, here's our business plan in more detail: we plan to run a "community" business where we'll rent our land for weddings/parties, run a hedge maze, host photographers, etc. and we plan to do this with a mythology/fantasy theme in mind. Since we'll already have all the amenities for those, a renaissance faire seems complementary.

As per the questions:

Is it convention for performers to camp out on site? I didn't know that.

I mean "offbeat" as in enjoys more unusual things (like faires) and not just 'fitting in'. It's possible I mean 'normal', but my area is just kind of sticks in the mud.

We'll own the land ourselves.

It would be hard in that the paths and placements and the occasional structure would be erected year-round. But for the first however long

The theme would be renaissance/fantasy. I have a mythology background, so I would lean that direction.

As for how long it would run, probably only two days or so the first time, and end up wherever it ends up over the long run.

I have definitely been researching existing faires as well. (We've been doing so since we started this plan a few years back) Just want to make sure I hear from voices of experience as well.

I appreciate the warnings; we'll try our best to come in smart. The main business-plan can survive with or without a faire, but I feel it would be a good addition over the long term and it fits with what we have. (And it would be fun)

Thanks!
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 07:41:01 PM by Kezip »

Offline Merlin the Elder

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2015, 08:47:43 AM »
... Is it convention for performers to camp out on site? I didn't know that. ...

Not so much cast, necessarily, but the other acts coming in may very well be traveling from faire to faire. They make their living doing this. Vendors will also generally stay on site. At hard sites — those with permanent structures — the vendors typically own their buildings, paying the faire a cut of their profit. They will frequently build their shoppes with living quarters above.
Living life in the slow lane
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I've upped my standards. Now, up yours.
...and may all your babies be born naked...

Offline Kezip

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2015, 10:25:56 AM »
Oh, okay. Interesting; I've seen the stairs to the upper rooms at the KY Renaissance Festival, but I never knew what they were for. Do the little small-town ones do that too, or is it more for the bigger faires?

Offline Rowan MacD

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2015, 11:29:17 AM »
  Your business plan sounds a bit like the site where the Renaissance festival of Nebraska is being held now days. 
  The 'new management' is the actual owner of the site, who bought out the previous management who is based in Des Moines and runs the DMRF. 
  The old owner was looking to turn over the outlying venues, so the Ranch took the faire over-so far, so good.  The biggest cost to the new owners was paying for the name and contacts, so they didn't have to start from scratch.
What doesn't kill me-had better run.
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Offline Merlin the Elder

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2015, 11:34:55 AM »
Oh, okay. Interesting; I've seen the stairs to the upper rooms at the KY Renaissance Festival, but I never knew what they were for. Do the little small-town ones do that too, or is it more for the bigger faires?
Well, the soft faires, off course, would not, I as far as I know, the one-weekend faires are all soft.

I believe that Florida faires are all soft because of building code requirements for hurricanes make hard faires unrealistic. When it comes right down to it, it more or less depends on how far you're willing to go. If you are only going to do one or two weekends, you would want to keep it soft, I should think, unless you have year-round events.
Living life in the slow lane
ROoL #116; the Jack of Daniels; AARP #7; SS# 000-00-0013
I've upped my standards. Now, up yours.
...and may all your babies be born naked...

Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2015, 11:40:30 AM »
Smaller, soft-site (tents and open-air vs permanent structures) faires are probably more limited to local vendors and entertainers as it is not cost-effective for someone to spend the money to come in from a greater distance, then have to pay for some place to stay. 

It's a business for them, too.  If they do not have the potential to cover their costs and have a little profit, there is little incentive for them to show up at all.

That is one of the reasons for proper planning to avoid what someone else mentioned as  a ren-themed flea market.  If the site is too small to attract quality vendors and entertainers, its chances of success start dropping.

At larger faires, some vendors might own their shoppes, while others rent on a seasonal basis.  Vendors are often paying a fee to the owners just to set up a do business.  They may be contractually required to sell only certain types of goods (juried, hand-made, period, etc.) and work in specified period garb.  Vendors might be allowed a certain number of workers to stay in their shoppes overnight, but others either pay to camp for the season or must find accommodations off-site. 
Polly PoPo
(aka Grannie)

Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2015, 11:50:41 AM »
Merlin brings up a good point about building codes.

If you are planning a site, with the potential for permanent structures, you’ll need to check with local governmental agencies to determine what is required.  You might start with the idea of letting vendors build their own structures on-site then find out there are extra taxes to be paid, or landlord responsibilities involved, or building codes to be met that would put it way out of budget. 

If you think people will just pitch tents to sleep overnight, there might be other codes that come into play.  There might be extra costs such as port-a-potties, trash removal, security, etc.  Will you be considered a commercial camp site with rules about that.  Then, of course, there is liability insurance. 

Depending on where you set up, there may be no codes or laws at all; other locations make it next to impossible to set up. 

« Last Edit: May 08, 2015, 11:52:30 AM by PollyPoPo »
Polly PoPo
(aka Grannie)

Offline Kezip

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2015, 12:00:16 PM »
Rowan MacD: Oh, really? Do you happen to know what that business was called? I'd be very interested in checking that out. Thanks!

Merlin the Elder: That makes sense.  These buildings really aren't good for much outside of a faire, I don't imagine. Besides large shelters and gazebos, the rental business wouldn't get much out of them.

PollyPoPo: That's true; I hadn't really thought about that. As far from other faires as I intend to go, most of my vendors and performers will likely have to be 'homegrown' unless I can make it worth their while to travel a long distance. Yeah, building codes are something I'm working on carefully; I also plan to build a small house and live onsite, so I've been checking those very thoroughly.  Thee are campsites near the location I have in mind and they have "group sites"; I'm wondering about reserving one of those for vendors/performers during faire season. That might be more cost effective and be better kept than anything I could do.

Offline PollyPoPo

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2015, 12:16:56 PM »
Kezip,

I really recommend you read all the threads here where people have discussed new faires, of all sorts, in all places. 

When you open a thread that might be of interest, you can "print" and get all the thread in one view, which you can then copy/paste into a Word document or whatever program you are using.  It puts the information into a form so you don't have to flip screens back and forth.  It also makes a searchable document that might help.

Threads like "why does a renfaire fail," anything under the "Small Faires" categories under the various regions (success stories and failed ventures), etc.  There is a wealth of information in these forums. 

Polly PoPo
(aka Grannie)

Offline Kezip

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Re: Choosing Faire Location
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2015, 10:38:42 PM »
Thanks, PollyPoPo! I definitely will! I fully realize I'm not ready to do this yet, but I'm only buying land right now, so I still have at least a year or three to learn from all you guys before jumping in.

 

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