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Renaissance festival sets 2014 return

With its inaugural season in the rear-view mirror, organizers of the Oregon Renaissance Festival are in the process of reviewing the event as they look ahead to next year.

This year’s festival, held at the Washington County Fair Complex, finished its run Sept. 29 in wild fashion as rainstorms forced cancellation of the final day.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Jousting events by brave and bold knights in armor were one of the highlights of the inaugural Oregon Renaissance Festival.

“There were sheets and sheets of rain on Saturday and it was windy,” said Wanda Carr, one of the ORF’s producers. “We had a pretty hardy group of about 600 folks visiting that day, but we closed about an hour and a half early. And then on Sunday there was so much rain it flooded the site at various spots.

“There was too much standing water and mud and sinking ground and no place to move vendors, so, for safety, we made a decision to close.”

The Oregon Renaissance Festival was an effort to recreate a 16th century European village, complete with knights, knaves, magicians, jousting in the public square and a visit from Queen Elizabeth I.

The festival, which began Aug. 24, was open every weekend through September, including on Labor Day.

The festival’s first season drew more than 16,000 visitors, which Carr regarded as a positive.

“We love the community and feel very good about the first year, and we’re extremely grateful for the fair board having us,” said Carr. “Of course, we’d like to have larger attendance, but considering the issues with the weather, it was a little harder to gauge success of the attendance.”

There was rain on several of the six weekends of this year’s festival.

“If we find a way to get control of the weather, everything will be great,” Carr joked. “But it’s all part of the business, and we’re open rain or shine.”

Carr said the ORF hopes to be back for its second year next summer at roughly the same time.

“We may start a weekend earlier next year,” Carr explained. “It’s a matter of timing with the Washington County Fair.”

Andy Duyck, one of the members of the Washington County Fair Board, said his impressions of the ORF were generally positive.

“My own kids were excited that this event was coming to Washington County. They bought early tickets, and when they attended the festival, they came back all smiles,” Duyck said. “I’ll take that as an endorsement.”

Fair board president Don McCoun said he, too, was impressed with the festival’s first year of operations.

“It was fun over there,” McCoun said.

Festival organizers hired about 350 staffers, including actors and actresses, for the opening season, and anticipate hiring at least that many next year.

“We have a good core group we intend to have back next year,” said Carr. “We want this to be an annual thing, so we need to have some patience with spreading the word.”

Carr said next year’s event will be essentially the same as this year — with a few tweaks. One change she anticipates is bringing in more vendors.

“We had about 40 vendors this year and a waiting list at least that long,” she said. “We’ll definitely have more vendors.”

Carr pointed out that lessons learned this year will make a significant difference for 2014’s festival.

“We had a really good time with the whole thing and there was so much we learned,” she said. “It’ll be easier next year.”




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