The North Carolina Renaissance Faire is now upon us. Today marks the start of opening weekend, and the faire will continue for each of the next two weekends from 10am to 6pm. This weekend features Philip Earl aka Moonie the Magnificent, in his only east coast performance. It is with his presence that NCRF President Donna Varner-Sheaves hopes to draw a large crowd.
In 2010, after 13 years of calling it home, NCRF left the Raieigh State Fairgrounds for the greener pastures of a Wake Forest golf course, the crowds began to thin a bit. When she put on another faire in Rocky Mount a month later, so few people showed up that it was decided that particular faire would not be continued. During this time, rent owed to the Raleigh Fairgrounds continued to be ignored and some performers were left without a paycheck. On March 8th, 2011, a Sheriff Sale was held at NCRF’s Raleigh offices to make up for over $22,000 of debt owed to landlord Jackson & Dowd Enterprises, LLC.
Despite it all — or perhaps, because of it all — Varner-Sheaves remained steadfast in her belief that the show must go on. And on it went, straight to Knightdale where Holly Homes developer David Menaker has leased to her a portion of his development at no cost. While this will certainly help stretch the profits, it remains unclear whether Varner-Sheaves will be able to pull NCRF from financial disaster.
In a message dated 4/2/2011, Varner-Sheaves wrote: “We [are] specifically working this year to pay the debt accumulated from last season. It is our #1 goal to get any Entertainers left paid and we have worked on it throughout the year.”
Many unpaid performers have expressed their doubts regarding that general statement. One anonymous performer said, in regards to how much money is actually owed, “I doubt I am high enough on that list that I will see a dime.” Other, more vocal performers like Dave McCullough are posting on The North Carolina Renaissance Faire’s facebook page that attending this year’s faire would be “to turn your backs on the people already left unpaid by the NCRF and set up other unsuspecting performers.”
Varner-Sheaves, when asked about such a statement, claimed the contrary. In the same message quoted above, she went on to say that “attending NCRF this year will directly impact our ability to get this situation moving in a positive direction for everyone.”
So it is up to you to decide where your loyalties lie and what you believe. What Varner-Sheaves is saying is a fact: the more money the faire makes this year, the more money there will be to go around to those to whom it is owed. However, the number of people owed, and which of them (if any) will receive payment for last year, is unknown.
Faire tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for military, children 5 to 12, and seniors over 65. Two day passes are $19. This weekend’s feature is Moonie the Magnificent. Next weekend’s feature is the Tartan Day Celebration, and closing weekend boasts no special event. The Faire is located at 7633 Poole Rd, Knightdale, NC, 27545.