Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Renaissance Faire, VA

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.

29 comments:

Heideldy Deideldy said...

You should come to Minnesota in August or September for our Renaissance Festival. Rumor has it that it's one of the best in the US.

rutheco said...

Try the NEW Virginia Renaissance Faire that grew from the ashes of the old show. We're going into our 8th season on the grounds of the Lake Anna Winery in Spotsylvania. ALthough we have none of the big, fancy buildings, we have an outstanding cast and more energy than the old show ever had. Check it out: www.VaRF.org

Debby Karalee said...

Thanks so much Ruthco, I shall definitely take a look at the site and try to visit this year. I love these faires.

Michelle Sholund said...

I went to the VA Renaissance festival I want to say in 1997 or something like that with a bunch of friends of mine from high school and coincidentally worked together at the MD Ren-fest at the time too. We really liked that faire - the VA one and when we wanted to go back again, it was closed. We heard so many rumors, but nevertheless, never went back. Have seen some images posted of what it looks like now, such as shame. As a group we purchased a brick that was for a path and we wanted to visit it each year, can't now, so am thinking - I WANT MY BRICK BACK ha ha ha! Thanks for posting about the Old VA Faire. Michelle, www.bythebaybotanicals.com

Anonymous said...

These are great! I was thinking of using this location as a setting for a photo shoot,(I'm a student studying fashion photography)but I can't find the exact location any where. Where is it located on route 3 if I were to get off of 95 at central park? thanks so much!

Lora said...

I'm thinking about visiting this place. Do you have any tips? Is it dangerous? Are there homeless people there? What did you bring with you - protection of any sort? Never been urban exploring before and I would love to use this location for fashion pics. I appreciate your help :)

http://inbugsdrawers.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

As an an amateur photographer and a Fredericksburg local, i've been wanting to go out here as well. Wonder about safety and police. Any advice?

Sharyl Dixon said...

I was at this Faire both in 1996 and 1997. haven't been to the area since, boy do I miss it. that faire was GREAT. I had so much fun. I actually bought a Beer Wenches costume and a BOS from there that I no longer have. they got lost due to circumstances beyond my control in 2003, but I am looking to replace them both at the next faire I go to.

Debby Karalee said...

The place is totally abandoned and you're free to walk right in. Just google 'Kings Highway, Fredericksburg' and you'll see the site. Avoid during the summer though as the place is rife with ticks and poison ivy.

Anonymous said...

Love the photos - I hate to say it but this is just about how bad the site of the Michigan Renaissance Festival looks - despite the fact that they are still up and running every year. They're owned by the same (some tell rather unpleasantly greedy) fellow who also owns/operates the Minnesota, Bay Area, and Kansas City renaissance fests. This year they announced several major circut acts won't be returning. Every year the ownership claims that ticket sales are down and they are "losing money." This year they haven't updated their website and it's been a habit lately. I wouldn't be surprised if the Michigan fest follows the same sad course.

George said...

Hi-I went out to the site today. I was amazed at the style and structure of the buildings. I think the owners spent a lot of money bring that site up in that short period of time and didn't give it a chance to develope and grow. Your right about the bugs and ticks! I about ran for my lie as I was getting swarmed by horse flies or some other bitting critters and had to do a tick check as I found 3 on me. Plenty of white tail deer back there I saw. More than likely they are drawn to the water and fresh grass. The site looked like it really rocked at one time. Shame they didnt sell it. I am guessing they were using it as a write off. June 10, 2011

Anonymous said...

Went over there the other day with a few people. Saw some construction equipment out front and met some other people who were riding around on ATV's inside. So much for worrying about trespassing.

The building are mostly intact but if you want to get to the top floor of the tallest building you need to use a rope.

Lots of ticks for sure, some poison ivy around, and saw a turkey buzzard in one room.

Crayton said...

I was thinking about going soon. To you who have gone recently, is it fenced or posted? I think it would be amazing to see.

Cody Miller said...

Is this place still around or have the destroyed it? I would love to go and explore it as I only live an hour or two away from Fredricksburg...

Cody said...

Is this place still around? Because I would love to explore this abandonded place, as I only live an hour or two away...

Anonymous said...

It's definitely all still there. Put this address into google maps, then move it a little farther along where the road would go if the woods weren't there.

1149 Kings Hwy
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Melanie said...

If anyone wants to see recent footage taken inside the old Renaissance Faire, adamthewoo has uploaded a video on his youtube channel where he explores the site as it stands today. Watch it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp7TjW4YR_E

Anonymous said...

Is this place posted at all? Considering going soon, paranoid cops.

Anonymous said...

paranoid about cops*

Anonymous said...

Who is it who owns the site? Does anyone have contact info for them? It would be interesting to see if it might be for lease.

あのこ said...

For those interested: I started a Flicker group especially for photos of this place. I recently unearthed an original map from 1996/97 and added it the pool - this could prove useful for all you explorer photographers out there. Please do check out the pool and add your photos to it if you please. It is a pleasure to see the way this wonderful place has succumbed to decay over the years, season by season. Keep capturing it!

http://www.flickr.com/groups/1716439@N22/

Anonymous said...

Current for sale price is 7,000,000. For house lots orheavy industrial use.

Anonymous said...

Owners of the land is here... taxable land value is 1,939,000.00 And land recently purchased for 1,300,000.00
http://staffordvapropertymax.governmaxa.com/propertymax/rover30.asp?sid=02CAD837B6F24FE9BD6F2E6DAA43ABD8

Owners filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy April this year... 7,000,000.00 sounds like a little too much to be asking for...
https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/1486146/Best_Industries,_Inc

Bruce Henry, Alexandria, VA said...

I am the bankruptcy trustee for this property. Apparently people are coming to the property to take pictures and claiming that the internet said it is ok to trespass on the property. This is not the case.

This property is not open to the public, and is posted for no trespassing. It is leased to a hunting club, and active hunting takes place there. The structures are deteriorated and unsafe.

Please do not enter the property. Trespassers will be prosecuted.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Boo, Bruce Henry, Boo!! Well at least you say please. Politeness counts for something.

Ron Newcomb said...

A word to the wise, If you ever considered going to the Old VA Ren Faire site in Fredericksburg, VA. DO NOT go down there. It's now being leased by a hunting club and they will charge you for trespassing. Be advised: STAY AWAY. They are serious and are done giving warnings – it is not worth it. Trust me, don’t go.

Kaycee Lionikis said...

I was wondering if you knew who now owns the property? It would seem like the bank would own it because it was in bankrupt, but it doesn't not seem like that now. Instead it's been let to ruins and I would hate something like that to happen.

Melissa-Morriganemaleth Smith said...

It is a shame indeed to let this place deteriorate. If anyone has any information on the current owner please let me know. I know a group very interested in this property. Thank you. Melissa-Morriganemaleth Smith

patriotmd said...

I know this is OLD, but recently there has been a spark of interest by the public about the old abandoned Ran Faire. Do you, or anyone you know have any more pictures from when it was operational? I would love to see what this place looked like in action.
I enjoy the MD ren fest every year, multiple times a year ;)

Thank you,
Aaron M