Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire sues over COVID-19 funds for entertainment venues

The pandemic has wreaked financial havoc on many businesses, including a popular Elizabethan festival that brings together 200,000 revelers in the Lancaster area for weekends of beer tasting, jousting and honoring the Queen.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Outdoor Faire – which claims its revenues have fallen more than 70% at one point in 2020 – is suing the US Small Business Administration for its denial of $ 5.8 million in disaster relief funds. pandemic. Ren Faire, as it’s known, says the federal agency hasn’t given a reason for the denial and is asking a Philadelphia federal judge to award her the kingdom coin she thinks she deserves.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Ren Faire,” says the lawsuit, which is seeking a judge to allocate the relief funds. The firm’s attorney said Ren Faire wouldn’t comment beyond what’s in the costume.

The US government has thrown a lifeline for businesses in the event of a pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program. A smaller bailout was the Law on Economic Aid for Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Hard-Hit Venues, with $ 16.2 billion in grants to live event operators, producers. theater, museums, zoos, aquariums and comedy clubs.

The federal agency distributed $ 420 million of these grants to organizations in Pennsylvania, about a third of which went to groups in Philadelphia, such as $ 8 million for the Franklin Institute and $ 3.4 million for the Please Touch. Museum. The maximum grant under federal law was $ 10 million. The smaller Philly recipients included $ 225,055 for the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, $ 701,226 for FringeArts and $ 34,649 for Jeanne Ruddy Dancers Inc., SBA data show.

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The Ren Faire in Manheim is part of a larger corporate umbrella that includes the Celtic Fling & Highland Games, the Blues Festival, the Fabulous Fifties Revival and the Country Jam. The company needs the grant for the reason the federal government created the program: “to help eligible live entertainment companies like Ren Faire recover from the major setbacks they have suffered as a result of the pandemic.” », Indicates the trial.

The lawsuit says Ren Faire’s 2020 revenue fell 47% in the second quarter and 72% in the third quarter – a popular time for the fair.

The SBA did not respond to comments.

Fairs are a small corner of the entertainment industry. Participants enjoy escaping from another era, dressing up in costume, and the mostly family-themed Queen Elizabeth entertainment. The Renlist website features 145 fairs, mostly Renaissance fairs but also some with pirate themes, for 2022 across the United States. Some fairs, which operate with a group of local or street vendors, attract tens of thousands of attendees. At its peak, Renaissance Magazine had a circulation of 35,000 copies. It recently ceased to appear after 24 years.

Daniel Kostelec, 41, who does Shakespeare-themed improvisational shows that he describes as cartoonish at Renaissance fairs across the country, said 2020 was difficult as many fairs have closed. “A lot of us were trying to navigate the unemployment system,” Kostelec said. Some have left the company. “I know someone who sells real estate,” he said.

Conditions improved in 2021, even as performers and festival-goers wore masks that interrupted interactions and fun times, said Kostelec, who performs as Shakespeare Approves.

Michael Ulrich, who says he is the photographer for Ren Faire, said Ren Faire opened in 2020, but its audience was far below normal.

Ulrich said attendance rebounded in 2021, but still had a cap.

“A lot of people won’t be driving from Lebanon or Lancaster to work part-time at a burger stand or turkey leg stand,” Ulrich said. “It’s like a community theater trying to get funds.

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