Tri-Cities losing its Renaissance Faire after 33 years — it’s likely gone for good

By Annette Cary

Tri-City Herald

Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire has been canceled in the Tri-Cities for this year and the prospects that it will return are poor.

It’s been a summer outdoor entertainment staple in the Tri-Cities for 33 years.

Ye Merry Greenwood Players posted on line this week that it had not been able to work out a contract to hold the event in Kennewick this summer.

The event has been held in Columbia Park in Kennewick the last four years, after moving from its longtime site of Howard Amon Park in Richland.

The nonprofit organization has spent close to $40,000 each year to put on a medieval fair in the Tri-Cities with eight stages playing continuous entertainment, such as jousting, musicians, magicians, theater and puppet shows.

Costumed entertainers wander the fair, interacting with the public, some of whom also come in costume.

Ye Merry Greenwood Players moved from Richland to Kennewick, because 16 acres were available at Columbia Park compared to the five acres at Howard Amon. More parking also was available, said Marjorie Kunigisky, president of the group.

The renaissance fair attracts about 6,000 people, including professional entertainers, volunteers and participants, Kunigisky said.

The group made the move as an unusually hot June at its last Richland event caused admission receipts to drop by $9,000.

In Kennewick the faire moved to September because Columbia Park was already booked in June.

But the change of date and location were probably to blame for a drop in attendance, causing the event to lose money the first three years and only breaking even in 2019.

Expenses were also higher because Ye Merry Greenwood Players had to hire people to direct traffic and parking and had to pay for its own fencing, Kunigisky said.

The group was once again negotiating a contract to hold the event in Columbia Park in 2020, but Kunigisky was concerned about the player’s signing off on the city requirement that if a city official determined there was severe weather, the city could delay or cancel the fair.

The group sent a letter to the city saying that while it had enjoyed using the park and the city’s hospitality it could not meet city requirements this year, said Evelyn Lusignan, spokeswoman for the city.

Severe weather is not defined in the contract beyond some specific restrictions for lightning.

Players plan fair in Oregon

The nonprofit players group typically has about $30,000 in upfront costs that could not be recovered if the event is canceled, Kunigisky said.

Changing locations again in the Tri-Cities would cost audience and income, which Ye Merry Greenwood Players cannot afford, she said.

The group also expected its insurance costs to go up significantly this year after continued legal maneuvering over what entities are responsible after a large branch of a sycamore tree fell in 2018 during the fair, killing a woman on a bench.

The Ye Merry Greenwood Players had signed a hold-harmless agreement in its contract with the city.

The city of Kennewick has about 46 events with more than 100 participants in Columbia Park each year and has the same requirements for each, Lusignan said.

“We are always eager to accommodate fun and unique events like (the fair) while balancing safety and liability in a fair way,” she said.

For the last five years Ye Merrie Greenwood Players has also held a second fair in Oregon minutes from the Pacific Ocean.

The group will be back at Waterfront Park in Toledo, Ore., June 27 and 28 for Ye Merrie Greenwood at Glastonbury Faire.