Consider the Competition


Monday morning (at 4 am, no less), I pulled into my garage after three days at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. It’s such a beautiful place! Not-too-distant mountains grace the landscape, the sky is a crisp, vibrant blue, the shoppes are like fairy tale illustrations, shows were outstanding, and the staff and artists were warm welcoming. And mermaids! They have built an gorgeous venue for guests to see mermaids up close and have pictures taken. It was a great trip.

Within the next few weeks, my husband and I will make our annual trip to nearby Sherwood Forest Faire, a gorgeous site for a faire that’s still growing and evolving, trying new methods and taking bold risks. One of our staff recently went and camped in the patron campground. Fellow fairegoers helped her get her tent set up and she had a great time enjoying the after hours camping experience. My husband and I are hoping to book a room at the inn in the village- that seems like such a great venue. I am mightily envious of their annual summer sleepaway camp, and their off season events are a fantastic way to feature artists and provide fellowship with “fairemily.”

Later in the spring, we’ll make the drive up to Scarborough Renaissance Festival, drink at the Whitehorse Tavern and see one of our favorite acts, Don Juan and Miguel.

You may ask why I am singing the praises of other faires- our “competition,” so to speak. Well, I’ll tell you: we here at TRF love it when other festivals succeed.

In our current social climate, it’s become way too easy to approach the world through a “snark filter.” Just look at the current race for President- slings and arrows abound, politicians are stooping to new lows in insults, and those who take the high road don’t get much crucially needed airtime.

Facebook and Twitter have given us a platform to say the sorts of things to both friends and strangers for which our mothers might have once washed out our mouths out with soap or put us in time-out. Entire social media personae have been created simply for the purpose of being sarcastic, disguising contempt and negativity as “humor.”

So here’s why I am speaking up- just like in the American political arena, where we accomplish more when we band together under a positive message, the same goes in the community of those who love to participate in and attend Renaissance festivals. Too often, when I read posts about other faires, I come across nasty comments. Usually aimed at TRF, but not always. It’s not management from the faires that engages in this conversation, it’s some patrons. The various management teams like to get on the phone and talk to each other, help each other out, or share resources. The three big Texas faires all happen at different times of the year. We have different strengths and weaknesses. In other words, we don’t see ourselves as competing against each other.

So we’re not sure why some patrons like to throw down.

Here’s what I’d like you to take away from this blog post:

We know we’re a big faire. When you have a founder and owner who still dreams big, it’s hard to stay small. We know that because of size, we can’t always do things the way everyone wants it done. We will always do our best to listen to concerns. Courteous voices are always easier to listen to.

nice 4

We care deeply about our patrons. All of them, with kids, without kids, rich, poor, old-timers and newcomers.

We also care deeply about our participants: from artisans and crafters to vendors, performers, booth workers, parking lot attendants, and privy workers. We want everyone here to flourish, be safe, and have a joyous experience.

And believe it or not, we care about those gents and ladies at Sherwood Forest Faire and Scarborough Renaissance Festival. We want them to succeed. And I am pretty sure they wish the same for us.

After all, we all share this crazy planet. Wouldn’t it be great if we played nice?

If you’ve never visited the other great Renaissance parks, take a look:


11 thoughts on “Consider the Competition

  1. Awesome article! I’m hoping to be able to expand our faire experience in the near future. My wife and I have only been to Sherwood (which we will be attending this weekend). Hope to see you there! Cheers


  2. Kim,
    I’m a long-time Faire goer in costume, or playtron more specifically.
    I’ve attended Scarborough since 1984, TRF since 1989 and Sherwood since it opened.
    I’m grateful to hear the Faires and management communicate and support each other. I’ve never felt the Faires compete, but you are right that many of the patrons do.

    I haven’t heard too many straight-forward negatives about a Faire (other than the inevitable rising costs), but I mostly hear “I wish…”
    I believe the complaints arise in hopes the Faires will continue to improve and due to the passion most patrons feel towards their home Faire or any Faire.

    I miss Scarborough’s older, community and patron-friendly style. They are much more closed now and if you are not part of the inner circle, you’re just a customer. Playtron customers get treated differently. I’ve had direct negative experiences making me feel like less than a paying customer. I want to see them keep going, but I want the modern attractions (bungie, mining sluice) gone, respect for patrons that dress up and add to the atmosphere and camping would be nice.

    I hear lots of people complain about TRF’s “commercialism.” Adding new features and raising prices to continually separate us from more and more cash. I’ve never had an issue with that. TRF has always been an obvious money-making business simply due to the sheer size and variety. Prices go up to match the economy, and new features get added – if they’re accepted and do well, they stay; if not they’ll fade away.

    Sherwood seems to be hitting the nail on the head for most playtrons I know – contributing to the Faire’s upkeep off-season, a sincere community feeling, open arm welcoming of playtrons and a fantastic after-Faire campground experience.

    Each Faire has its own character, its own uniqueness to offer. My social circle is playtrons, so I hear their voices most often. I have a few friends who visit in plain clothes, and I know they only attend once a year to one Faire at most. My feeling is that the Faires are appealing to these rarely visiting patrons. Since they don’t provide much repeat business, new patrons must be solicited constantly. I’m at a loss at why the Faires don’t all cater to the playtrons more since we sink thousands of dollars into this hobby every year. I’ve also suggested that gate prices should be lowered, more like the movie theater model – get more in the gate cheaper and they’ll spend more inside.

    We all want to see Faires succeed and continue. There are so many types of Faire-goers to please, finding middle ground is surely the most daunting task. I am simply glad Faires exist, At first it was a playground to bring my fantasy literature to life, then it became my favorite social circle and today it’s my recharge with or without friends. I hope to keep attending Faires the rest of my life.

    If you’ll be at Scarborough opening day, I’d love to meet you and chat with you. I’ll be running a memorial pub crawl for our circle of friends, but you are welcome to join us.


    1. Darren, what a thoughtful reply! All these things are definitely on our radar and you’re right, it’s very hard to please all the different types of patrons. But we surely hope to keep trying. I don’t know yet when we will be at Scarby, with a daughter getting married in a few weeks, our social life is completely on hold! But I hope to meet you sometime, if not at SRF, then find me at TRF!


  3. As an AZRF rennie, you just made me smile. I absolutely love the positivity. That is what faire is all about. I hope to come visit you guys this year!


  4. Huzzah Kim! I’m glad the faire managements talk with each other. Each one can learn from the experiences of the others and if (between them all) they can get more people drawn to the renaissance festival experience, that will benefit all faires and even us playtrons as there will be a larger base that goes to faire and maybe branches into attending other faires as well – so hopefully the faires can stay in business and grow in attendance.

    There’s a photo-term “coopetition” where we share information and techniques amongst ourselves and help each other out, but there’s still a competitive element trying to better our personal game. Trying to get the cooler shot, etc… However each photographer has his/her unique way of seeing – just as each faire I’ve attended has it’s own feel or vibe. They’re in the same genre, but the vibe each one gives off is unique. There’s no right or wrong – it’s up to an individual’s taste as to which “secret sauce” tastes better to them. 🙂 Mmmm faire. 🙂


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