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NCRF looking to move to Knightdale....

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Faire wants to settle in Knightdale

KNIGHTDALE - Town council members heard a pitch for Knightdale to become home of the North Carolina Renaissance Faire complete with knights jousting and ladies sitting at court.
Donna Varner-Sheaves, the executive director of the fair, said it had been produced in Wake County for 17 years, most recently in Wake Forest. She said the event draws visitors primarily from across Wake County and the southeastern states.

Renaissance fairs incorporate acting, dance, music, visual arts and fabric design and rely on historic portrayals of a king's court. Events include knights on horseback in full contact jousts and Highland games for Tartan Day weekend.

"I think the name is good and the benefits to the community will be good," said councilman Tim Poirier.

But both Poirier and councilman James Roberson questioned a 10-year contract for the event in the new town park, as Varner-Sheaves requested.

Roberson asked if Wake Forest, where the event was held previously, granted a 10-year contract for its facilities. Varner-Sheaves said the event had never asked for one. She also asked the town to help the fair apply for arts grants to fund the event, pay for advertising, provide police support and the close roads if needed.

She said until the park is complete, two locations are possibilities for the fair, Black Belt World and East Wake Middle School.

Roberson asked if school drama students would be able to participate. Varner-Sheaves said they would, through a large base of volunteers the fair uses.

Knightdale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Bryan said the chamber's board of directors endorses the fair and sees it as a way to bring in tourism.

Varner-Sheaves said some of the participants stay the entire time for the event which runs on weekends for three consecutive weeks and would need hotel rooms.

Council members forwarded the request to the planning and engineering committee to refine details and to bring the issue back to the council for a vote. or 269-6101 ext. 101

This is the response that was posted....

Letter: Residents ask questions about Renaissance Faire
Last week's Eastern Wake News tells us that Knightdale is considering allowing a Renaissance Faire to come to our area. Renaissance Faires can be a lot of fun. They are definitely educational and can, if done correctly, can be a huge tourist draw for the area.
But before we go headlong into approving this event, we need to ask some pertinent questions. The article mentioned that one possible site might be East Wake Middle School.

If the event is held there, there is a danger that it would violate the no alcohol policy of the Wake County Public Schools. Alcohol, in various forms, is readily available at most Renaissance Faires. If they want it there, is the group prepared to have a strict no alcohol Faire?

Second, this event has the potential to bring in hundreds of not thousands of people into the area at a concentrated time. Do we have the infrastructure, the road system, the logistical means, and most importantly, the ability to make this event safe and secure to make this event what it can be?

Third, can our Town Council do their homework and talk to the officials in Wake Forest, where this event was held in the past. What was their experience with the Faire and why did the group or Wake Forest decline to hold it there again? Lastly, the article mentioned that the Faire organizers want a 10 year contract. Why are they seeking such a long term contract when they had not done so in the past?

I am all for fun. I am all for education. A Renaissance Faire, done correctly, can accomplish both objectives. But done hastily, done without many months of planning for the influx of people, vehicles and vendors, this could prove to be disastrous. Please Knightdale Town Council, before you allow this event to move forward, ask the questions that need to be asked and then see if the economic benefit is worth the risk.

Edgar Taylor


Actors say Faire hasn't paid them
Event organizer says vendors didn't pay her, causing cash flow issues.

KNIGHTDALE - Actors who performed with the North Carolina Renaissance Faire that hopes to land in Knightdale say they haven't gotten paid for their work and one has filed a complaint in Wake County small claims court against its president, Donna Varner-Sheaves.
David McCullough, a musician from Danville, Va., filed the complaint against Varner-Sheaves Aug. 3. The court date has been extended until Dec. 2.

"I and at least six other performers from last year's NCRF ... still have not been paid and Donna refused to return calls," McCullough said Thursday by telephone.

McCullough said Varner-Sheaves owes him $1,000 for his performances in two renaissance fairs.

The organization has asked the town to help it seek grant funding for future operations in return for relocating the event to a site in Knightdale.

Money owed to Faire

The N.C. Renaissance Faire wants to relocate from Wake Forest. Its president, Varner-Sheaves, made a pitch in September to Knightdale town councilors for a 10-year contract to hold the fair in Knightdale.

Varner-Sheaves admitted some actors had not been paid. She said the organization ran into trouble this year when money that was owed to the fair was not paid. She declined to identify what party owed the fair money, but said it had never happened before.

"We have been in business almost 17 years and this is the first time we've had that issue," said Varner-Sheaves. "We've never had this situation come up and not pay an entertainer in the past."

The Town of Knightdale will likely discuss whether to award a contract to the N.C. Renaissance Faire at tonight's council meeting, said Town Manager Seth Lawless.

Lawless said a report from the Planning and Engineering committee was due on the matter. He said he e-mailed councilors information from the festival's tax records and a complaint from an actor about not getting paid.

"I'm aware of that. I've gotten one e-mail," he said. "We pulled their financial records from the IRS so we know what financial shape the organization is in."

Performers speak out

Mark Jaster, a period comedian from Maryland, said performers at first were reluctant to speak out because they feared Varner-Sheaves would not be able to host another fair and would never have the money to pay them.

"But the way she's been treating us. She's been very hard to reach and sort of cagey and then only under duress with letters from lawyers," he said. "I don't want other performers to end up the same way. It was a big deal to travel from Maryland to North Carolina and not have any part of the obligation met, or do us the courtesy of letting us know what was going on."

Brian Morton, a magician and political columnist for the Baltimore City Paper said the whole experience of the King Henry Festival in Rocky Mount was bad.

"There were nowhere near the amount of people we were led to believe would be there," he said. By contract, I was supposed to get paid on the Tuesday after the final fair. That Tuesday came and went, the next Tuesday came and went. I started marking them off on my calendar. Everybody was trying to call her. I was sending her e-mails. At the end of July, I got a form letter. 'Dear Performer, we had a great festival.' It was a form letter. I could not have been more disappointed."

Morton says he was owed more than $1,000.

Varner-Sheaves sees it differently.

"We have a good reputation in the community," she said. "We've worked very hard for that reputation. We are not a wealthy nonprofit. We're a small, local organization. It's a shame that a couple of people through small claim suits are trying to denigrate our organization."

Varner-Sheaves said she hopes to make enough money to pay the actors at a madrigal dinner fundraiser in Cary on January 8.

David Rojahn, a magician from York, Pennsylvania, said he worked for Varner-Sheaves for 10 years and had always been paid in full, until this year.

"To see it turn this way, to me, it's a real heartache," he said. "It has wonderful volunteers who do a great job."

Rojahn, who was paid about half of what he was owed, said he understand tight finances. "It certainly happens in my household, but then you don't just not contact people back again."

Has anything come about on this.  Is the faire going to take place and if so when????????


Town Council OK's Faire  Support will be limited
KNIGHTDALE - Offering good wishes for the success of the 2011 Renaissance Faire, town council voted to provide police for traffic control, and trash receptacles and garbage pickup at the event.

The in-kind services are worth about $2,000, said Town Manager Seth Lawless.

The fair's executive director Donna Varner-Sheaves had appeared at previous council meetings, asking for sponsorship, help getting a site to hold the faire, help getting grants and a 10-year commitment from the town to host the faire.

Since then, Varner-Sheaves secured a lease from Holly Homes for a site on an area of future development of Poplar Creek Village subdivision and announced on the faire's Web site that it will be held in Knightdale in April.

"I do think we should provide officers to make sure this is done safely. That makes sense to me, but other than pick up garbage, outside that that's all we need to do," said Mayor Russell Killen.

"You guys know the history," said Lawless as he made the recommendation to the council, ... "We investigated the faire and their recent events hadn't been completely successful due to any number of reasons. I personally think it's still an interesting idea."

Actors told The Eastern Wake News they hadn't been paid at recent faires Varner-Sheaves managed and a former board treasurer said she resigned amid concerns about the organization's financial stability.

Council member Jeff Eddins pointed out that the carnival sponsored by the police department each year to raise money for Special Olympics hires off-duty officers to provide security. He asked if the proposal was to provide security or traffic control.

Lawless said traffic control by officers was being proposed.

"Should they pay for the dumpster?" Eddins asked.

"The faire does have the potential to bring a number of people into our community. It's a pretty minimal contribution. It's not cash, it's not sponsorship."

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Chalk said the town needs to contract Waste Industries and let them provide the dumpsters since the town contracts with them.

"I wish them success and if it goes well, we'll look at it again next year," said council member Tim Poirier.

April 2-17 weekends

12th night dinner on Jan 8


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