Thursday, July 13, 2017

Putting on a Medieval/Renaissance Faire

Some of my online friends have suggested I write a book about medieval faires. I do not think there is a market for this, but I think that it might be a good idea for a series of blog posts.
Now, as readers, you know I have been to numerous medieval/renaissance faires. It has become a hobby of mine since I began to go to them in researching my medieval novels.  In this capacity of a researcher, I have noticed certain common aspects of successful ones, and not so good ones.
You should also remember; I am a professional wrestler.  I work in what is referred to as an independent circuit. This means they are small to medium sized wrestling events. I have noticed that the traits that make a successful wrestling show, are the ones shared by successful medieval faires.
So here are my tips to anyone who is thinking about starting, or improving their medieval/renaissance faires.  I also think this applies to other venues, such as wrestling, or even steampunk, or other types of festivals.

Do your Research- This is the first step.  Look up as much as you can about putting on this type of faire.  Contact the organizers of other faires and ask them.  Also, there are wonderful groups who promote faires, these too can be an asset to you.

Start early- This may seem like a simple statement, and known by many. But when it comes down to it, sometimes it is missed.  Plan your event, over a year away, if not years in advance. Time will fly by, and many medieval/renaissance acts and vendors are booked for the next year (see my next blog about Vendors and Artists). 

Almost all the suggestions I provide must be done early.  If someone, or some aspect of the faire, falls through, having more time will allow you to adjust for it.

Get Financing- The more money you have, the more money you can spend.  Might seem simple, but this is vital.  Go seek out individuals, companies, organizations who will help you financially with your festival.  You might not only be able to get finances, but you may also be able to get services for your faire.  Perhaps a local company can provide portable toilets for your faire, tents, or benches and tables. 
Also, give these companies something in return, make it worth their while to support you.  Set up donation levels, the more they can donate, the more prominent you will post their ad or logo on your website or festival brochure.
Insurance- You will need to purchase insurance for a faire.  Not only do you need this for any accidents which might occur, you may be required to purchase it by local regulations (see Go to your local politicians, or bureaucrats for help section below).
Make sure to discuss what type of insurance is needed for the type of acts you are having.  Jousting with horses my mean you need to obtain more insurance than one without them.
This may also be a place to make a deal to getting a deal on your insurance, by advertising the insurer on your website of brochure.
No man (or medieval faire) is an island- You will need to get others involved into your festival/faire. If you can get enough people, break them down into smaller groups with specific tasks; have an entertainment, vendor, artist group, whose responsibilities are to obtain these people for your faire. These groups should brainstorm their ideas, and bring them during a meeting to the larger group.
Commanding Officer- (call them whatever you want) No matter how many people are involved, or groups, someone needs to be in charge.  If you are organizing this faire, you must look at your qualifications, and personality and ask if you can handle this position.  This person will need to be a dictator, peace maker, scavenger, devil and saint all in one.  This person must be able to push back against others who might have a stronger personality, and at the same time must work with people with good ideas who might have trouble conveying them.
I cannot emphasize how important this person is. One of the things you must realize if that there will be cliques formed in your groups.  People will also vie to take over this festival in the future.  All these factors, will move against not only this faire, but others to come.  It will be hard to be put on the first faire, but the hardest part will be keeping everyone together for a 2nd one.

Meetings- You have now organized small groups, and larger ones, now you must meet to discuss the faire.  It is better to have too many meetings than not enough.  If you cannot met in person, then discuss Skype or other type of off-location conferences.

Find a Suitable Location- This is another item which must be done early.  You need to find a place to have a faire. If this is outside, the ground should be a level place so people can traverse the landscape.
There are many local parks or grounds which allow people to rent them for such a faire. Check out these, also grounds located at your fire, or town hall.

When picking a location, also remember weather conditions.  Ask, or go view the field, during a rain storm; can the field still be used, or do you have to walk through a foot of mud to get around?
Not only do you need to find a place for your faire, do not forget parking. You need sufficient parking spaces for your event.  Also, find out about local laws dealing with parking on the road. If your faire is packed, you do not want people to get tickets for parking on the side of the road, this will mean disaster for future faires.
Go to your local politicians, or bureaucrats for help.  This is another important step that is missed by many faires (and wrestling groups).  Not only do you need to get them on your side, you may need permits to put on your faire. (I have traveled hours to wrestle in a match, only to find out that it was cancelled at the last minute because of some regulation or proper paperwork being filled by the promoter).
I mention bureaucrats, because you may find, a local assistant or civil servant knows more about government regulations, then those who make them.  They are a vital asset and do not overlook them.
If you can convince the local authorities that this might improve local businesses or promote tourism, they will assist you immensely. You may find that they are willing to provide technical support, or advice in helping you. Also, they may promote your event, which will mean more attendance.
Another advantage in getting politicians on your side, is in case you get one that opposes you. Sometimes, politicians have a view of a local community.  They want to promote the things they think are important, and oppose those items that they feel do not contribute to this.  If you do get one of these, it would help you to get another one to back you.  In this way, the opposing force can be blocked by your political ally.
We will discuss more about politicians in our next episode dealing with celebrity endorsements.

This is where we will end with our discussion, join me next time and we will continue with this topic.

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W.A.Rusho is an author, historian and professional wrestler.  You can contact him via his website or by email.


  1. Have for a long time been wondering if you wish you had lived during the Middle Ages? Do you live during that time in your thoughts? And last but not least, will you set up a medieval festival yourself?

    1. Ty for commenting on my post.
      It is always nice to dream about a different time, but to be honest, they did not call them the dark ages, and middle ages for nothing.
      It was a hard time for everyone, but hardest for the commoners (we call peasants). So I would not be able to decide which class I was born into.

  2. There is quite a lot that goes into putting together a Renaissance Fair I would never have thought of. There are no Renaissance Fairs in Los Angeles. That might be because the land is too expensive which would greatly cut into profit. I've never been to a Ren Faire as a patron so I would love to go to one. So hopefully someone gets inspired by your post and starts one closer to where I live.

  3. Good information, William, for anyone looking to put on a large scale event. I look forward to reading some more about how to go about this--I always admire the investment that people make of themselves to offer an event.

  4. Hi William. I am one of the ones saying you should write a book. But my idea was that you would write a book about visiting medieval faires. What makes one event different than the other? And including all the snippets and tidbits about medieval life that you have included in your blog posts. That all could very easily be imported into an e-book for medieval buffs.

  5. My boyfriend is interested in event planning, and medieval fares could be part of this. He took up fire spinning last year and I've been dabbling as well.

  6. I did some event planning back in the days when I worked in the travel industry. It's hard work, but also pretty exciting and such a high when everything comes off! I like your response to Catarina's question about whether you'd ever thought of living in Medieval times. I've always been fascinated by the history of early days in the west - new frontiers, cowboys and Indians, etc., - but there's no way I'd want to live in those days. Thanks for another inspirational post William!

  7. Which Renaissance Festivals have you had a hand in organizing?

    1. I have only put on wrestling shows. Now, I my time is going to medieval faires. As I stated, I have seen common attributes between both that make them successful. I have not seen too many sites about putting on a medieval faire, so wanted to post something.