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Author Topic: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?  (Read 3590 times)

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Offline ++King of the Pirates++

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As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« on: May 20, 2009, 11:55:29 AM »
As I am pretty sure the VARF gets bigger with more patronage every year do you think that within the foreseeable future that they might actually build full-scale replicas of period buildings just like they have at the MDRF and the GARF?

I know that that would be awesome so I hope it happens...hopefully within the next 5-10 years. :)
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Offline kcdcchef

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2009, 12:18:51 PM »
God i hope so. when i lived in the washington dc area for the better part of a decade, and then southern virginia for a couple of years, i avoided the virginia renaissance faire like the plague. would drive to pennsylvania faire, maryland faire, fly home to kansas city renaissance festival, you name it. that was not even 10 years ago, when it was in its infancy. i went again a few years ago and was suprised that it had indeed grown, but still so much resembled a small town fall festival with people in elizabethen garb. a good ren faire feeds off the amount of patrons it has, and that makes it grow.

anyways, went back again in 07 while in the area. again, impressed with the growth, but still too small and lacking a lot of people that were totally committed to making it go. now, dont take my criticism harshly, i wouldnt have ventured back in 05 ad 07 if i didnt feel it had potential, and wanted to see it get better. i really do. and i hope it does. i think one of the things that would so much make it better would be more period architecture, permanent structures like you mentioned, and also, better lanes, woodchipped!!

anyways, i continue to root for your faire. i may make it down this month.


Offline Master James

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2009, 12:40:31 PM »
Yes the plan is to add actual buildings and such but as in most other areas of the country, a big part of the issue is cashflow.  Unlike some other faires that have large corporations that own several faires, VARF does not have that huge financial backing.  Also most of the core management folks were part of the original Virginia Renaissance Festival in Frederick and saw what could happen when you over reach your finances.  That faire, while VERY nice and having full buildings and such simply could not sustain itself financially to pay for everything that was invested up front in building it up and sadly was summarily closed after only I believe 4 seasons.  Our objective is not to borrow money to build but have the cash to build so that we don't HAVE to make a huge profit to continue to function.  MDRF started out this way over 30 years ago in a fields in Columbia, MD and now look at them.  And they are now looking to BUY rather than lease land for the show.  VARF has only been around for 7 seasons and has only had a permanent home for 4.  Give us some time, we are building new structures each and every year and there is more planned but we will build in a financially sound manner that does not mean if we have a bad year due to weather we have to close the doors forever.  Will that take a little longer than all of us might like?  Yes but it guarantees that we will be here for years to come for your enjoyment and not gone in 2 or 3 because we ran out of money.  In the meantime, do come out and enjoy our faire so that we CAN grow it bigger!  Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend!
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Offline ~pixie~

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2009, 01:05:02 PM »
You must have missed the old VARF in 96-99. 

As for the "new" VARF, there are a ton of people totally committed to making it go. This faire and it's people have more heart than any corporate faire I've seen.  That's why it is what it is today.  Please keep in mind that this is an all volunteer, non-profit organization, occupying space on the grounds of a gracious winery.  Permanent structures and woodchipped paths such as you both suggest are certainly desirable, but in order for that to happen, as Master James has stated, there needs to be money with which to build.

In my opinion, a "good ren faire" depends not only on the patrons,  its size or lack thereof, or the fact that it has buildings & paths, but on everyone involved, and the fact that when the day is done, one can sit back and say, "Wow, that was fun!"  I hope you had that experience when you last visited in 07.  I  say that at the end of every day, every weekend, every year, so by my definition, VARF is indeed "a good ren faire".

New volunteers are ALWAYS welcomed.  While moral support is much appreciated, why not come on down, get involved, volunteer and help make it happen? 

Hope to see you there!

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Offline will paisley

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2009, 02:22:31 PM »
God i hope so. when i lived in the washington dc area for the better part of a decade, and then southern virginia for a couple of years, i avoided the virginia renaissance faire like the plague. would drive to pennsylvania faire, maryland faire, fly home to kansas city renaissance festival, you name it. that was not even 10 years ago, when it was in its infancy. i went again a few years ago and was suprised that it had indeed grown, but still so much resembled a small town fall festival with people in elizabethen garb. a good ren faire feeds off the amount of patrons it has, and that makes it grow.

anyways, went back again in 07 while in the area. again, impressed with the growth, but still too small and lacking a lot of people that were totally committed to making it go. now, dont take my criticism harshly, i wouldnt have ventured back in 05 ad 07 if i didnt feel it had potential, and wanted to see it get better. i really do. and i hope it does. i think one of the things that would so much make it better would be more period architecture, permanent structures like you mentioned, and also, better lanes, woodchipped!!

Master James nailed it - we're not a huge company with 6 or seven figures to throw down to create an insta-faire.  Hell, we are just now being able to afford *some* advertising, and nothing of the scale that MDRF has.  I know all too well that people who have been to faires like MDRF and PARF expect tons of stages and acts and buildings.  Right now, VARF can't afford to be like them, and I take great pains to explain that to people when I tell them about us, lest they make the long drive down, look around at the field and ask "Is *this* all there is?".  That's precisely the same question I asked myself when I saw the new faire in Ladysmith, pitched in a field behind the parking lot of a large indoor flea market.  When my wife asked the person at the booth for season tickets, I looked at her like she was out of her mind.  Luckily I went along with her and bought them, because we went back every weekend and enjoyed ourselves every day we went.  It's certainly a different kind of enjoyment from the "Let me sit here while you entertain me" that you can get on any stage at MDRF (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That®).  The people who enjoy VARF the most are those who always wanted to know what it would be like to be on cast at a faire.  We've had people who've shown up in the morning who were sitting on the Court of Common Pleas judging cases by that afternoon.  Faire in general (and VARF in particular) is basically one big theater in the round, and no faire gives the patrons more stage time than VARF.

Believe me, nobody has a bigger desire to see permanent buildings on site than the cast.  Right now, however, it's enough work to make sure we have enough money just to maintain our current situation.  Plus there's always the possibility, slim though it may be, that we might end up moving.  What happened (or would've happened) to any permanent buildings at MDRF's Columbia site once they moved to Crownsville? 

Eventually, we'll get there, but don't hold your breath, and please don't avoid the faire just because we're a long way from getting there.  Right now there are some benefits to being the size we are (cast/patron interaction and peace-tied weapons being a few).  As we get bigger, it's entirely possible that some of those benefits might diminish or dwindle away.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2009, 02:24:44 PM by will paisley »
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Offline kcdcchef

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2009, 03:18:55 PM »
i was actually commenting on a similar situation in the wisconsin faire page, the part of faires that sucks, when they move, close, etc. and starting over, ugh. my home faire is kansas city, and in 2003, they had a huge fight with the county about the lease on the land. county wanted a lot more money from them, since the land had become valuable, but the previous thirty years they used the land, it was worthless. the county's main source of income was getting annual rent from the kcrf. and now that the area was starting to boom ( a trendy suburban shopping mall type thing, and a race track ) they all of the sudden wanted to kick out the kcrf due to their now cheap rent. it all got settled, luckily, but a lot of us long timers were terrofied that the beautiful and amazing shire that had taken almost 30 years to make into what it was, hundreds of permanent structures, stages, shops actually built into the trees and tree stumps, tree stump carvings, creeks, streams, beautiful HUGE trees, etc, etc, well, we almost went crazy thinking of leaving almost all of that behind to start over. oh my god, how panicked we all were. luckily, it didnt happen, and the lease got settled.

anyways, back to your faire, like i had said, no disrespect intended. i still come check it out. i actually did make it to the old faire before this one, that was much more entrenched. i liked it, sure. but this is the one we have now ( i still consider myself a dc guy ) and we have to enjoy it and embrace it. and i agree, it is not just the patrons that make it go. but when you are attracting 150-180,000 people over the course of 6-10 weeks, it is the patrons. the word of mouth that makes the corporations want to be tied at the hip to it. the crowds bring revenues in so many streams, advertising going up, concession and merchandise sales going up, higher admissions and more patrons in general, etc, all goes to make a better faire.

one thing that could hurt the varf more than anything else, is in the average patrons mind, there is no difference between this faire and the old one. varf is varf. and if but yet another move happens, heaven forbid after getting settled in again takes place, that will really kill this faire. but i have always felt virginia is the place for a great faire, virginia is a huge commonwealth, and not everyone wants to drive a million miles to get to good entertainment, let alone good sized entertainment. example, richmond, the shakespeare festival. one of the only shakespeare festivals in the world held in the shadows of a home that was in england standing while will shakespeare was alive. great times, i loved it when going. problem is less than 500 can even see it, very small grounds. and the other faires, are such a drive. i absolutely hated driving all the way up to pa or md, but felt to get a good faire in, what choice did i have?

keep plugging gang. and i will try to make it this june.

Offline ++King of the Pirates++

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2009, 06:34:11 PM »
I feel a vibe of tension and I assure you I am not bashing the faire for being so small...I just think that it has extraordinary amounts of potential.

The fact that it is small will not turn me away...I will be their on the 30th for pirate weekend.
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Offline Spanky

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2009, 10:23:06 PM »
Forget that VARF is small,think about all of the volunteers that make it happen.I've had the privledge of being a part of VARF since 2008 and  the things that have kept me being a part of it is that there is a lot of heart and soul plus blood ,sweat and tears in making it happen.I'm proud to be part of something special like VARF!This version of VARF is here because a lot of people care about it.
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Offline GoldenGoose

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2009, 08:45:04 AM »
Oh, don't worry, we don't feel bashed! It's sometimes hard for our self-esteem to be located so close to some of the countries largest and most established faires. But travelling around to other faires has proven to me that a soft faire, a tent faire can be a wonderful thing. The Bay Area Faire is a great example, gifted with a lovely site...full of tents.

We started to rush into building...and now we have several structures that, in retrospect, are not quite where we'd like them to be. And for long term planning, there's water, electricity, parking, drainage, etc. So for NOW, we're mainly looking at storage and stages when it comes to building projects. Structures that could be moved.

Building opens up a whole can of worms in terms of permitting, who owns the building, do vendors rent space, lease buildings, who maintains and cares for it....our faire is run by volunteers who have full-time jobs in addition to their "faire jobs".

We'll go there, but at a snail's pace and with careful forethought, not biting off more than we can chew at one time. And we recognize our limitations -- there's a reason our gate fee is less than half, less than a third of the price of the bigger faires. Heck, you can almost get a season pass for what you'd pay at one of the larger faires. Now, some people can't imagine visiting us more than once. But we sell a lot of season passes, so for some people, we're a great experience.

I see the big faires as almost a completely different experience as compared to Virginia. Just very, very different -- like the difference between going to a movie and staying in and seeing it at home. Sometimes you want to see it in a big theater. And other times, you'd rather be in your jammies, snuggled on the couch, hanging with your loved ones.  It's okay to like one over the other -- or to like them both for different reasons. 

We're very happy with how we're progressing. Heck, if we could make travelling Route 95 more pleasant, we'd be pleased as punch. Oh, and we could use some weather blessings. (That's a hint for you, Mother Nature...)

Offline ~pixie~

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2009, 08:55:23 AM »

TNRF is another lovely tent-faire, and very well attended.  They too only have small permanent stages much like VARF's and the pub is similar to a park pavilion that one might rent for a summer party.  Just shows that "soft" faires can indeed be just as successful as the larger ones.

I like the movie analogy!
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Offline Castlewoodhouse

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2009, 09:44:42 AM »
I've been blessed by this wonderful pastime for over 20 years and been both a patron and a cast member of many(as well as the producer of 1), now my blessings grow as I have been selected  to join the cast of VARF. Its not the buildings that make a faire, it's the spirt of those behind it and involved with it. VARF if truly got heart. Everyone I've meet has such pride in what they do, it shows in the smile on thier faces. Yes buildigs would help to paint the illusion, however, there is no way to create the illusion of caring the VARF cast has. Please come out and join in with this group as they grow something with a purity of the heart not found in the everyday world.
"What Starts in a Tent, Can Grow to a Castle"

Offline ~pixie~

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2009, 09:55:28 AM »

I'm not sure we want to talk about what starts in a tent in *this* forum!   :o

Well said, though!
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Offline RSLeask

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2009, 04:29:23 PM »
I'd be remiss in not mirroring what Castlewoodhouse said.  This is my first season I've come out, but the 4th faire I've been to.  The troupe at VARF, and other players here, have been some of the most engaging people, and really get you involved with the going-ons of Staffordshire.  It really has been refreshing to see it, and especially has made me want to actually flesh out a character beyond the simple road traveler I've been using.  I'm hoping you all will get the chance to grow more in terms of permanent structures, land size, etc, but please never lose the personal touch I've come to enjoy, and what I'll miss when I travel back to my old stomping grounds and the MIRF, permanently later this year.
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Offline will paisley

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2009, 05:06:52 PM »
I'd be remiss in not mirroring what Castlewoodhouse said.  This is my first season I've come out, but the 4th faire I've been to.  The troupe at VARF, and other players here, have been some of the most engaging people, and really get you involved with the going-ons of Staffordshire.  It really has been refreshing to see it, and especially has made me want to actually flesh out a character beyond the simple road traveler I've been using.  I'm hoping you all will get the chance to grow more in terms of permanent structures, land size, etc, but please never lose the personal touch I've come to enjoy, and what I'll miss when I travel back to my old stomping grounds and the MIRF, permanently later this year.

That's what I was alluding to at the end of my last post.  As the faire grows, it will be harder and harder to keep that "personal touch".  I remember my first year as a VARF patron at Ladysmith where you could play an entire game of croquet with the Queen.  That's something that just doesn't happen any more on a 1000+ patron day.  Still, we are able to include people more than the other faires I've been to. I'm not aware of any other faires that let visiting patrons with the right garb join in parade or stay at court for extended periods of time.   

FWIW, it doesn't take much to flesh out a character.  Sometimes all it takes is a baseball cap.  One year a guy showed up in street clothes and a Phillies baseball cap.  From the moment he walked through the gate, he was dubbed the Duke of Philadelphia.  By the end of the day he was rising up reverancing peasants with all the indifference and aplomb of a veteran noble.
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Offline RSLeask

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2009, 05:48:34 PM »
FWIW, it doesn't take much to flesh out a character.  Sometimes all it takes is a baseball cap.  One year a guy showed up in street clothes and a Phillies baseball cap.  From the moment he walked through the gate, he was dubbed the Duke of Philadelphia.  By the end of the day he was rising up reverancing peasants with all the indifference and aplomb of a veteran noble.

"Lady" Sam, anyone?  XD  Seriously though, yes, it doesn't take much to step into a character.  But actually pulling a character, background and all, can be a little more than trifling.  Especially as detail-oriented as I am... >.>

Croquet with the Queen?  That would be great, actually!  I remember MIRF, with the human chessboard and the king and rival moving the pieces, including two volunteer kings.  Some of the comments I got (yeah, I got... hey, no one else wanted to do it then, lol) were funny, especially when it came to the battle-to-the-death at the end... towering over a little girl, sword and shield in hand, she can barely hold her sword up, other "white pieces" shouting, "Forget honor, forget chivalry, gut her for the win!"  Things like that which make for a grand old time!   :D

And something I'd definitely hate to see lost at VARF, as I said.  But yes indeed, the bigger it gets, the harder it is to maintain that, unfortunately.  You're too right there.
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Offline Mistress Cherry

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2009, 09:43:02 PM »
I've done a lot of stage theater. I auditioned for VARF back in 2003 because one of my husbands best friends was the Director and I couldn't imagine anything more fun than getting to "act" in the type of Ren faire that I remembered from childhood (Escondido, CA).

I never expected what I got!

Street theater is NOT the same as stage theater, and this wasn't even street theater. It was dressing in costume and playing pretend with all your friends AND every other random person who walked through the gate. You were all striving to imagine and maintain the same world, and interact within it. It was unreal!

It rained EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND for the first six months of the year that year, including all the performances. It was miserable! We were knee deep in mud and bugs, and the hay spread down to try to give the patrons a less squelchy surface molded, and got lots of us sick.

And yet, you've never seen people have the kind of fun we did! We had mud fights that you can still find video of on YouTube. There was one day where only one guys and his girlfriend showed up the whole day! And that guy was ENTERTAINED by golly, because the entire cast followed him around in a huge entourage all day long. We just wanted someone to play with!

The best part? I go 2 to 3 years between visits, and every time I walk through that gate I hear calls of "Cherry!" from across the field. They still remember me. The same folks are still there, making patrons and former cast feel special, and loved.

I wouldn't trade our Faire for any permanent site anywhere. (I've made myself all weepy typing this. How pathetic is that? Still, truer words...)

Offline Dirtfarmer

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2009, 08:21:00 PM »
It would take a long time and a lot more growth to even begin to exceed the current personal "interaction".  VARF is based on the style of old "Hard Site" VARF that had somewhere between 45 to 55k patrons the last year it was open and it still had a personal touch and each and every one of us in the cast had the same goal, to touch each and every person that steps in the gate.  This is one of the main goals of the current version of VARF.  I would say, that at this point, we are not even touching the potential of the current cast.  The more people that come through those gates, the more opportunities the cast members have to interact, and the more of them "mobilize" to interact.  I had a talk with Cornie about this vary thing this weekend, and her mind is set firm on making sure that the intimint feeling is maintained though the growth process. 

Offline Benedict Browne

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2009, 09:48:16 AM »
With the articles, and lately the Fox News Special last friday, we have always made it a point to let the public know that we are an 'interactive' faire.  And it is a wonderful feeling to see the shy child that hides behind the Mom or Dad or grand parent as they come through the gate and are greeted by a cast member for the first time; later in the day active in a craft, getting knighted, or responding loudly to a "God Save the Queen'. And its not just the children who may at first enter with trepidation.  We also get the occasional "I want to stay in my bubble and observe from afar" adult, who before the end of the day is getting into the feel of the faire, and becoming interactive.

To me, seeing these changes in people who break out of their 'bubbles' is the greatest joy a performer can feel to know that they made a 'connection', and have provided a bit of themselves that the patron will carry with them and tell their friends about how much fun they had at faire.




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Offline Captain Dungcaster

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Re: As the VARF grows do you think it could happen?
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2009, 08:57:58 AM »
I for one am not averse to popping by on an off weekend and swinging a hammer to help construct any "permanent structures in the future. I check these message boards from time to time so if a project such as this were to come up I would certainly jump in to help w/ the work. I work with my World War One group to construct trench bays made from rough hewn timbers at the G. W. A. site in Newville Pa twice a year so this type of work is not a big deal.

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