As an introductory note, in early 1998, I was at a computer
show when I ran into a staff member of the Renaissance Entertainment
Corporation, aka, REC, RenCo, and "Wreck". . . . "Disney
lite" has just come to mind, but any further repetition might
get one sued for slander by Disney, and I digress . . . The staff
member and I have known each other for quite some time and along with
catching up on assorted odds and ends, we started discussing the
method and theory of competently running RenFaires. This was a
rather unsuprising topic, as on one hand the two of us dated back to
a number of RenFaires as well as the final years of the Northern
RenFaire in Novato, and on the other hand, she had spent the previous
couple of years with an unobstructed front row view of the REC and
its dedication to Not running a RenFaire, but instead practicing a
perfectly legal variety of blatant fraud. I commented on what I had
been observing as one who was on the outside in the late twentieth
century, and one of her comments was a very specific and pointed
observation on what had been going on Inside, also in the late
twentieth century, In Short;
Following the final year of the Northern RenFaire in 1994, and
then finding out that starting in '95 REC's sole interest was a
blatantly late 20th century mall with delusions of
becoming a county fair,
A) In 1995, The RenFaire performers Walked Out, refusing to
have Anything to do with this fiasco. This does grant that
there were people who stayed, many of them noting "We're not
working a RenFaire, we're getting paid".
B) In 1996, The RenFaire Audience refused to show up,
having seen in '95 that the only visible difference between RenCo and
the nearby Paramount's Great America is that at GA, there are roller
coasters and the Klingons in attendance get paid instead of just
showing up in equal number. This Also does grant that one or two
people did show up, but I have a Very vague and uncertain
memory that this number was almost outnumbered by the staff.
C) In 1997, REC did indeed do a deliberate campaign of
plastering the Entire San Francisco Bay Area with advertisement after
advertisement, on buses,. across multiple pages of individual
newspaper issues, for day after day after day, in train stations,
across More buses, and even through what were Very cheesy and
telling radio and television ads . . . In short, yes, they noticed
that what made the RenFaire an ongoing and repeated success was now
gone, and rather than attract us back for something that had always
worked and still works elsewhere, they just threw away more money.
Finally, in mid 1998, a shill for the REC tried to troll an
SCA---http://www.sca.org--- mailing list to try and sucker people
into showing up as performers, and was quietly ignored. The morning
after the shill posted, an SCA member who didn't know the history
wrote in with great puzzlement, and forty minutes later, I knew I
would be late for work.
Work, by the way, was Very understanding,
and literally cheered me on.
In 1999, RenCo finally joined its fellow strip malls and
Distributor Large Outlets when it moved into a former roadside
attraction called The Nut Tree, in Vacaville. A clarifying thought
that came to mind only recently is that of the Overall situation at
this point, the Only difference between the RenCo fantasy mall,
especially at its location by the freeway in Vacaville, and any low
end Las Vegas casino, is that RenCo cannot get a Nevada style gaming
license because they are working in California.
And back in mid '98, the following is what I posted for my
fellow SCA members;
< At 07:07 AM 7/14/98 EDT, you wrote: >But haven't we
heard for the past, I don't know how many years, that "this"
is >the last time for Ren Faire at that sight and EVERY year it
comes back? >
Siiiiigggghhh . . . . Weeelll it all depends on how you define
"This" and "Faire" . . .
Back in '94 or so, the Pattersons, the founding family, sold their
rights to the faire to the Rennaissence Entertainment Corporation,
aka REC, while announcing, "they're only just putting in money,
We're still in control, We're starting a new company called
Rennaissence Pleasure Faires Inc, RPFI . . . that was about the last
heard of RPFI, too many quickly figured out it was a smokescreen . .
Also in '94, as the Black Point forest land had been sold to
someone else, the someone else decided "This is prime
land---even if below sea level---and we're going to build houses and
a golf course here!" They ordered the Faire to leave, and
planned development for late '94 and early '95, and the big
announcement, all the way out to advertising and t shirts, was "94
will be "Farewell to Black Point, the final Northern RenFaire".
And then the local developing commisions announced to the wannabe
developers, "You're going to do How much to What??!!! No
Way!!!!" . . . and there were also comments about endangered
species found on the site, and so forth . . .
So, with great giggles, all and sundry converged on Black Point in
'95, among comments that the REC sale had Really Now kicked in, and
we all showed up and . . . Well . . .
The main shopping area had been rearranged for more booths and a
twice-standard-booth-size monstrosity the REC was putting up itself.
The REC monstrosity was not only selling stuff in competition with
the faire's own vendors---aka "pissing in your own soup"---but
between the schlock sold inside and the store's appearence, the
universal comment was "Have you seen RenMart? It looks just like
That was only One example that kicked in that year. Myself, I
lasted through to the opening weekend, then finally conceeded that
where I had shown up for a RenFaire, I had not shown up for a rather
schlocky fantasy mall that was being staged instead, and I was one of
Many who left. I first joined the SCA in early '96 and was one of
many refugees who did, others went over to the Civil War enthusiasts,
and I'm sure that, sadly, some just gave up in disgust . . .
The telling point of 1995 North, the first of the REC Fantasy
Malls, was Phyllis Patterson, the RenFaire founder and original
emphasiser of "This Must Be Period" wandering around openly
with a video camera "So I can capture the faces before they all
Since then the Malls have gotten more and more like a third rate
late 20th century county fair, which is obviusly all they are
intended to be, while some of the REC staffers and the particularly
desperate have cried "Oh No, It's Not a Mall, It Really Is The
Faire, That We have All Known And Loved!!"
And the response has been, in unison, everyone, these are *Actual*
occurrances that the REC has been doing;
You know you're not at a RenFaire when:
You're asked to buy a raffle ticket for a Kawasaki.
You're asked to buy a "Yard Of Beer".
Your conversation is drowned out by the loudspeakers at the
RenFaire's horse tourney site.
You're on the main road in the mall, and you can see and point
directly to either of the *Two* ATMs, shining brightly in the sun . .
The new belly dance troupe passes out fliers for their web
site---a damned good troupe, I've worked with them elsewhere, but
since they were at a mall, well, of course they had web fliers
printed on late 20th century paper!!!
. . . . and more . . .
Among all this there have been multiple yowls of "I had a
Fine Time!!! How Dare you claim it's not a faire!!"
I and other faire goers and workers *are* very happy you had a
good time at the REC Fantasy Mall. But did you Really attend a 1500s
recreation of a back country English village festival? . . . No.
As For The Town of Novato, the area of which hosted the Faire for
28 years and has put up with the mall for 3 years, the citizens of
Novato were asked to vote on whether or not development should
finally kick into gear. The vote, this last year or so, was an
unqualified Yes. In short, most likely, after 28 years of welcoming
Faire, when given the choice of the rather sleazy North-East-Marin
County Fair or a serene golf course, hell yes the local citizens
voted for a golf course . . . .
The proverbial bulldozers go in in October, which is why this
year's Mall is ending the weekend that the Faire had been opening,
and, yes, barring sone new distinct oddity, this *is* the final year
Something will be staged at Black Point Forest . . . .
Thank you for your time.
Lord Felix MacAvady (AoA, Beltane, '97) Mists,