More than a month after a rare July storm soaked fair-goers at the 31st annual Central Coast Renaissance Festival in San Luis Obispo, organizers are asking — for the first time — for the community’s help to keep it going.
The San Luis Obispo-based nonprofit corporation History Revisited, which produces the event, is hoping to raise $40,000 to make up for a loss of an estimated 2,500 ticket sales due to a drastic drop in attendance on the second day of the two-day festival, which was held July 18-19 at Laguna Lake Park.
On July 19, a storm brought thunder and lightning to San Luis Obispo County, and San Luis Obispo set a new July record with 0.84 inches of rain that day.
“It has never rained on us,” said media coordinator Rick Smith, one of the festival’s founders. “It just doesn’t rain in July. I looked outside and thought, ‘This can’t be happening.’”
The festival usually draws about 5,000 people over the weekend, and revenues from ticket sales and vendor fees go toward the following year’s fair.
It costs about $70,000 to produce the event, which includes costs to rent the park, buses, a parking area at Madonna Inn for guests, portable toilets, entertainment, advertising, equipment, and a crew to build the village.
This year, about 2,500 to 3,000 people attended the festival on Saturday, which was warm with clear skies.
But only a few hundred people braved the rain Sunday. Fair organizers, knowing there was no other date to reschedule, decided to open, but some vendors did not, worried about their products getting ruined, Smith said.
The costume contest was canceled, the pony rides went home, and nearly 4,000 feet of new burlap, used to surround the village, was ruined. And the organizers lost about $3,000 when the hay bales they rent for people to sit on couldn’t be returned.
“We all huddled together under the one building out there and some acts performed under there instead of the stage,” Smith said. “The few people who came out were determined to go to the fair. Some came in costume and got soaked. At least it was a warm rain.”
On Tuesday, Smith created a GoFundMe account to try to recoup the $40,000 he estimates the festival lost. That amounts to about 60 percent of the organization’s operating budget. As of Thursday afternoon $1,445 had been raised. Those who donate $100 or more will receive complementary passes to next year’s event — which is scheduled for July 16-17. To Smith, the faire is an annual reunion of sorts. He only knows some people by their faire name: a duchess or earl from history.
“You get together with these people you haven’t seen since the last fair and it’s ‘How have you been, how’s your cow,’” Smith said. “You pretend that it’s all real.
“I think that’s one thing that attracts people to the fair as well,” he added. “They come out to the fair and they can be an earl or duke or whoever they want in a different time.”