It’s time again for the annual Texas Renaissance Festival, a fall tradition for many local families and several that are not local as well.
Some Magnolia residents have enjoyed going to the festival for years. Mike Reynolds, Boy Scout leader for Troop 1488 in Magnolia, started coming when he was a teenager and now brings his own sons to the festival.
“This event is good family entertainment, so we like to make a day of it,” said Reynolds. “I like the theater acts and musical groups. I moved to Dallas for a few years and I really missed it.”
Many Magnolia citizens cringe during Renaissance Festival weekends in October and November, as they think about the roadways around town being clogged by visitors. But the RenFest does have a positive impact on the overall economy in Magnolia.
The festival has more than a million attendees annually, and quite a few are not from Texas, but come from far corners of the nation, such as Maine, Washington and Florida. They travel to the area and expand the economy by spending money on hotel rooms, gasoline and food.
Throughout the festival, local hotels and restaurants stay full. Many Renaissance Festival visitors and employees remain in town for the duration of the festival.
Lia Vansadia, owner-manager of the Magnolia Inn and Suites, acknowledged she has guests from every state during the Renaissance Festival.
”We are always sold out during the festival every year,” she said. “We started running a free shuttle for our guests to ride to and from the festival grounds last year. It was an instant hit. I had people calling about it months in advance.”
Terre Albert, General Manager of the Renaissance Festival, indicated that the festival employs more than 1,000 people for the run of the event, and the 395 vendors employ another several hundred to help sell their wares.
“Many local people use their earnings for Christmas money and we are happy to have them back year after year,” said Albert. “The festival has been running for 37 years, and it gets bigger each year. Our campground alone has more than 5,000 people each weekend, and many of them stay from Thursday through Monday. All that time they are eating in restaurants and shopping in stores in Magnolia.”
The Renaissance Festival has its own theatrical company which employs local entertainers to portray the 15th century villagers.
“Local high school or college students participate in our acting company, and this gives them a chance to gain professional experience and build their resumes,” said Albert.
Magnolia has become the official sponsor city of the Renaissance Festival. Deborah Rose Miller, President of the Magnolia Community Foundation, spearheaded the partnership.
“We help promote the festival, and in turn the festival helps us with donations to our non-profit groups and by cooperating with city fundraisers throughout the year,” said Miller.
She mentioned the festival donated $20,000 to Magnolia non-profits recently, during the “Stroll Through the Renaissance Festival” event in downtown Magnolia. Although the rain prevented large crowds, more than 1,000 people did attend and had a chance to experience 15th-century foods and beverages and try to dunk their favorite local celebrity in the dunking booth sponsored by the Magnolia Rotary Club.
“The funds our nonprofits receive from the Renaissance Festival help to compensate them for the inconvenience of not being able to run an effective fundraiser during festival time. It ends up being a win-win situation,” explained Miller.
The Magnolia Community Foundation plans events throughout the year for the purpose of benefitting Magnolia non-profit groups and providing entertainment to residents. This year, they had to put up with rain at every event.
“We anticipate next year will be better. We will begin with a Mardi Gras Stroll in February,” said Miller.
The Renaissance Festival runs every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to dark beginning October 4 and ending the Friday after Thanksgiving. It also hosts special school days so that students can learn more about 15th century life. For more information go to http://texrenfest.com/.