A Renaissance Fair That Doth Keepeth The Bawdiness Within Limits

Is the world ready for a not-too-bawdy version of the Texas Renaissance Festival? That's what a couple of Houston guys are finding out.

George Appling and Eric Todd have sunk $1.7 million into buying 105 acres and and putting up permanent buildings off 290 about 35 miles east of Austin. Vendors have built another $1 million worth of permanent buildings. It's called the Sherwood Forest Faire, it's got some big-name sponsors, and it's just had a successful opening weekend. It'll run on weekends through April 4.

Appling tells Hair Balls he and Todd saw a hole in the Faire circuit and took a chance. "We had either the cojones or the foolishness to go all in," he says of their investment.

The Sherwood Forest fair is not competing with the larger Texas Renaissance Festival, which takes place in the fall and is well-known for its rowdiness. Appling says Sherwood Forest aims to have a more family-friendly environment.

"The Texas Renaissance Festival is very bawdy and rowdy and there's a lot of visible flesh and extreme drunkenness," he says, succinctly describing why people like it. "And the owners like it that way. Both Eric and I have kids, and we want them to be able to run around the fair."

He's not exactly banning raucousness, though.

"We are policing the exposed-flesh element, and we're keeping the extreme drinking out of the kid's area," he says. "Bawdy people are welcome -- we just want them staying around the big pub we have, not the kid's area."

He said 4,700 attended the opening weekend, which was right at expectations. Exit surveys seemed to indicate people liked the experience.

What do you do with a renaissance fair property during the 11 or so months a year when there's no fair going on?

Appling, a telecommunications consultant, says they're looking at doing things like summer camps, music festivals and weddings.

But first they have to see how well things go.

"We're going to get through the first season first and then see if we're rich or poor," he says. "We'll probably be one or the other."

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly