On May 4, 1996, the Virginia Renaissance Faire opened for the first time near Fredricksburg on Route 3, a stretch or road known since the 18th century, appropriately, as "King's Highway". The site, once owned by George Washington's mother, is in an area known locally as Sherwood Forest, and was purchased for nearly $3 million by Renaissance Entertainment Corp. (REC), a Colorado-based company that owns fairs in California, New York, and Wisconsin. The Faire ran seven weekends through June 16, but lost so much money, some due to poor weather for 2 years, that 1999 was its last year.
On Sunday, a few of us went to explore the site and see what remained. It had been raining heavily the night before and some of the morning, but by the time we arrived, the sun was shining. The ground was uneven and wet so I was glad I had my boots on.
Nearly all the buildings were still standing and though overgrown seemed solid. Creepers and brambles covered walls and pathways making the place appear like the Sleeping Beauty's forest.
Most of the upper floors in the buildings were unsafe as they were plywood, but a couple that I climbed gave great views of the grounds. Still, after last week's close call, I was very wary of the floors and for the most part, kept on solid ground.
This lovely tower had become very overgrown in 10 years but still looked like it was part of a fairy tale.
It was wonderful to see that the buildings had not been vandalized too much. Glass was broken but it was still easy to imagine how it must have looked in its prime and grafitti was not yet an overpowering influence.
This shot was taken from the ship which hosted small plays and acts. Although the paint was long gone, the deck was sound, but we resisted climbing the rope ladders to the crow's nest.
I couldn't see where this roof came from, it seemed as though a giant had used it for a frisbee.
Some of the platforms and stages had disintegrated and a few walls had been pierced by falling trees. There was evidence of fire in one of the buildings but the rest of the ground was ageing gracefully.
The whole time I was there, I was aware of bullfrogs calling out to prospective mates, and in some places their calls were quite deafening. I came across a large puddle which had a dozen or so frogs splashing back and forth while bellowing to eachother, such as the chap above.
The two images above are of the Faire in 1997, there are very few public images on the internet, and it was pure chance that I took the photo below 10 years later from almost the same position as the ship photo above.
The Virginia Festival has now been moved to Spotsylvania, VA but I have heard people say they preferred the Fredricksburg site. In 1999, after the Virginia Renaissance Faire closed, Renaissance Entertainment Corporation took many of the decorations from the Faire to "dress up" the Kingdom in Bristol, WI, giving it much of the look it retains today.
4 weeks ago