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."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.