Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 27, 2003

Missing Renaissance Fair

What a blow the end of the Northern California Renaissance Faire is to all of South Valley. I was saddened by the news that organizers will no longer operate a fair in Northern California. My 12-year-old son, who is developing a wide-ranging interest in history, especially loved visiting the recreation of a medieval village each autumn.

According to the statement issued by the Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, the Northern California fair, which moved to Casa de Fruta from Novato in 2002, had been in decline for more than a decade. The company’s written statement said Northern California fair attendance had dropped by more than 60 percent since 1991, and the event had lost more than $900,000 since 1999. All the while, they say, their events in Southern California, New York and Chicago were turning profits.

If that’s the case, then you can’t blame the economy – which is bad all over the country now, but was thriving during much of the fair’s decline – for the event’s failure in Northern California. I don’t know where to point the finger of blame. Perhaps it wasn’t marketed well, perhaps the fair isn’t hip enough for sophisticated Northern Californians?

I do know the fair’s closure isn’t good news for local tourism efforts. The San Benito County Chamber of Commerce has a new emphasis on increasing tourism, and the closure of a six-week draw of tourists to the area can’t help that effort.

The fair’s closure will be a blow to local businesses who will miss the thousands of visitors the fair received each fall. It will hurt Hollister, Gilroy and Morgan Hill with lower sales and motel tax revenues.

The fair was a source of employment many local residents and just plain fun to attend. Where else could you throw a javelin, watch a bawdy Olde English show, follow a witch hunt, while a never-ending parade of décolletage spilling from low-cut bodices fills your peripheral vision?

Maybe, just maybe, an organized and theatrically talented group of South Valley residents will see the closure of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire as an opportunity to create a medieval-themed event of its own. Perhaps we can build upon what Casa de Fruta owner Gene Zanger learned hosting the event over the last two years and create something even better than what we lost.

***

It’s not all bad news for local outdoor events. I was thrilled to receive a postcard announcing that the Morgan Hill Farmer’s Market will now be held year-round.

The Farmer’s Market, held Saturday mornings at the Caltrain station parking lot on Depot Street on the east side of charming downtown Morgan Hill, was formerly a May to October event. During those months, every Saturday morning that I’m free, I make it a point to grab one or both of my kids and spend a pleasant 30 or 40 minutes munching our way up one side and down the other of the aisle, tasting the delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, baked goods and seafood offered. Cut flowers and potted plants are also frequently available. We always leave happily laden with bags of delicious food and with my wallet much thinner than when we arrived.

The added bonus in spending part of our Saturday morning at the Farmers Market is that we often run into someone we know who’s happily spending their leisurely Saturday morning the same way, who has a few minutes to chat and catch up on what’s new.

While I can’t come anywhere close to making a case that a year-round farmers market will replace the economic loss of the six-week Renaissance Pleasure Faire, I can definitively assert that it will do a lot for our quality of life in South Valley. Now those often dark months of November through April will at least have the pleasure of a farmers market where we can meet our neighbors, greet the farmers and buy high-quality, locally grown food.

Gilroy’s farmers market closed a few years ago, and rumor has it that Hollister’s market is struggling. Let’s make sure that South Valley’s remaining farmers market remains viable. If you’ve got a few spare minutes on a Saturday morning, help make the winter and spring months a success for the Morgan Hill Farmers Market.

It would be a much-needed feather in South Valley’s cap.

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