The Sarasota Fairgrounds has a long history with “medieval” style events. It started in the summer of 2005 with Jim Peterson of Mid-America Festivals. After he visited our site and we toured his site in Kansas, the Sarasota Fair began clearing the back acreage of Brazilian peppers, overgrown brush and illegal dumping debris. With months of labor, the first medieval fair at the fairgrounds arrived in February of 2006 since the Sarasota Ringling Medieval Fair closed in 2000. Mr. Peterson held two medieval fairs here and then we had a different promoter hold one in 2007.
The Sarasota Medieval Fair (our 3rd promoter) arrived in 2008 and continued to 2019. The Sarasota Fair continued to expand the park, install water and electrical utilities, plant trees, level grounds and creating a park. The Sarasota Fair maintained the grounds year round, mowing, dirt work, tree maintenance and continuing to work towards its vision of a great event park designed around medieval or renaissance style events. The Sarasota Fair has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours of labor to realize this vision.
This year, the Sarasota Medieval Fair was given a Licensing Agreement for the 2020 Sarasota Medieval Fair. Our agreement includes exclusivity of a themed event in the park, storage of pods and materials on a year round basis, exclusive use and access to the site from rehearsals in August thru the teardown of the event in December (approximately 5 months). It also included use of all of our bleachers and ample/ expansive parking. Camping and shower facilities were also available (but paid for by the vendors and cast, for the most part). The Sarasota Medieval Fair also paid for use of electric on event days and the metered water bill for that section of property. The Sarasota Medieval Fair only paid “rent” on the four weekends of use and received 10% of beer revenue from the Sarasota Fair after expenses were deducted (sales tax, product cost, tent rental, and bar labor). The 2019 base fee, minus the 10% beer revenue credited to the event, only cost the Sarasota Medieval Fair $2,000.
The Sarasota Medieval Fair declined to sign an agreement with the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Instead, a counter offer was made for the Sarasota Fair to give additional revenues of 20% of alcohol gross to the Sarasota Medieval Fair in order to hold the 2020 Sarasota Medieval Fair. There was no concern on the safety of the community, rather a decision based on financial feasibility:
“I am struggling with making the decision. There are so many things to contemplate and many unknowns. We are going back and forth on whether to cancel the event this year before I start incurring significant expenses and labor planning.
Many fall events nationwide are starting to cancel or be postponed, and with uncertain economic conditions expendable cash will be down. Extra precautionary measures will be required to provide a level of safety and comfort to guests, in addition to a marketing campaign to settle nerves some may have attending a large-scale event. There is uncertainty about where public opinion will be and whether there may be a resurgence of coronavirus rates that may force the governor to reinstate at-home orders, or at least prohibit the assembly of large-scale groups. On the optimistic side people may be ready to do something, and with local people traveling less, our community could use a fun positive quality event. Financially, the event production is very costly, and we were struggling to get by last year during the best of circumstances.
I’ve been going through budgets and models anticipating a significant drop in attendance this year, at least 20-30% in best case (regardless of how many weekends) assuming the virus doesn’t resurface and this still assumes a portion of the large elderly demographic in the Sarasota area still comes out. The bottom line is we will be taking a huge hit this year without any long-term feasibility. We can cut things to bare minimum, without detracting too much from a quality production (so we can still build a long-term future), but that still leaves us in the negative in aggregate. With all that being said, I hate to see us not have the event this year, we are all in this together.
I have a proposal that I think can assist with this year's tension, and maybe put us at long-term ease. Same as food vendors and rides and games, we ask for 20% of gross alcohol sales, in return we offer a 10 year commitment “. (Source: Jeremy Croteau, May 2, 2020, sent to Sarasota Fair Board of Directors and County Commissioner Mike Moran; public access email scgov.net on July 31, 2020).
“The offer of a ten year contract provides protection for you, but does not for us. It can lock your rates in for the time period but if you fail to perform, we have few remedies in our benefit.” Rory Martin, May 6, 2020. (Source: Jeremy Croteau, May 2, 2020, sent to Board of Directors and County Commissioner Mike Moran; public access email scgov.net).
After careful consideration of the years of dialogue, consistent request to receive more money from the Sarasota Fair, and the use of other properties to leverage more concessions from the Sarasota Fair, it was decided by management with consultation of the Sarasota Fair Executive Committee, it was time to cut ties. Mr. Croteau could have signed the Licensing Agreement for 2020, maintained the site plus kept year round storage and not held the 2020 Sarasota Medieval Fair for the base rental fee but chose not to execute the Licensing Agreement.
Part of this consideration was the goal of the Sarasota Medieval Fair to build a permanent site. As the Sarasota Fair is a not for profit organization, independent from any governmental body, the site limitations would not work for the permanent site due to restrictions. Furthermore, the Sarasota Medieval Fair was actively surveying properties for purchase. This is known only as it was the property next door to a Fair Board member on the Executive Committee.
“I am glad you are purchasing land. As I told you a couple of years ago, you need to make the decision that is best for your operation. With land ownership, you can get your own alcohol license, and run the event as you see fit. No one to answer to!”Rory Martin, Feb. 7, 2020.(Source; sent by Jeremy Croteau to Sarasota Fair Board of Directors and County Commissioner Mike Moran; public access email scgov.net on July 31, 2020).
Since the removal of Sarasota Medieval Fair assets from the Sarasota Fair property, further investigation since has found that the property purchased for the Sarasota Medieval Fair is titled under Mallaranny LLC (source: Manatee County Property Appraiser; Parcel ID: 166400002)
Owner: Mallaranny LLC. Mallaranny LLC was incorporated on January 29, 2020 (source: Sunbiz:L20000027969).
There are no listed officers, but cross referencing Sunbiz with the Manatee County Property Appraiser map of property purchases show the ownership. It is apparent that the Sarasota Medieval Fair would be leaving the Sarasota Fair in the very near future.
The Sarasota Fair did not make any comments publicly about the end of the business arrangement between the two entities.
There was no anticipation of having an event in 2020. When the announcement came out about the cancellation of the 2020 Sarasota Medieval Fair, the Sarasota Fair had three interested parties approach us about holding an event in 2020. Peter Moolhuizen, owner of the successful Brevard Renaissance Festival, called the Sarasota Fair requesting a meeting on June 16, 2020. Mr. Moolhuizen expressed interest in producing an event at the Sarasota Fair property. Without a non-compete clause with the Sarasota Medieval Fair in effect, the Sarasota Fair decided to work with him. Mr. Moolhuizen expressed concern that entertainers, vendors and crafters had no income due to the COVID pandemic for months. With four months to go, hope was that the pandemic would be easing.
The Suncoast Renaissance Festival was born and a lot of hard work ensued. The first thing was a comprehensive COVID policy to ensure the safety of performers and attendees in the outside environment including temperature checks, mask policies, and more.
The Suncoast Renaissance Festival has not presented itself other than as a "renaissance festival". It is not "medieval", nor claiming historical accuracy, but offers four fun filled weekends for those inclined to attend.
The only similarities are the timing of the event as the Sarasota Fair has built its event schedule to accommodate the parking and traffic of the Sarasota Medieval Fair, and a similar type theme although the time periods between "medieval" and "renaissance" are hundred of years apart.
There have been many negative comments about the Sarasota Fair hosting the Suncoast Renaissance Festival. The SRF is not pretending to be the SMF. It does not reference “medieval”. But, the promoters of the SMF created two LLC’s: Sarasota Renaissance Festival LLC, and Sarasota Ren Fair, LLC (source:Sunbiz; L20000176453, L20000176470; both on June 24, 2020 with Jeremy C. Croteau).
The Sarasota Medieval Fair is now selling non-refundable tickets to 2021:
"Tickets can be used for any single day, or you can catch all the fun and excitement by purchasing multi-day flex passes to the 2021 Sarasota Medieval Fair. All tickets purchased online are Print-at-Home tickets. With Print-at-Home, you can either print your ticket or just show them on your smartphone. Simply select your tickets and quantity below." (Source: Sarasota Medieval Fair website)
An advertisement running in the Sarasota Herald Tribune for the Sarasota Medieval Fair has a video that “it’s the triumphant return of the Sarasota Medieval Fair in the Ringling Woods behind the Sarasota Fairgrounds, get medieval, purchase tickets online at sarasotamedievalfair.com” on November 14, 2020. Including the Sarasota Fairgrounds or Ringling Woods is clearly deceptive advertising.
The Sarasota Medieval Fair has the right to notify the public that the 2020 event is cancelled. But, creating “renaissance” LLC’s, ads stating at the “Ringling Woods behind the Sarasota Fairgrounds”, radio ads, adding meta tags of “renaissance” to the SMF website, full page color ads, selling non-refundable tickets now for 2021, does add to creating confusion to the public. People are showing up with 2021 tickets to the Suncoast Renaissance Festival thinking they can get in.
This was a business deal. The deal did not work out due to financial concerns rather than “public safety”. The Sarasota Medieval Fair is now going to be based in Myakka City, Manatee County. The baseless attacks on the Suncoast Renaissance Festival and the Sarasota Fairgrounds on Facebook and other media should stop. We are not bashing them nor will we in the future. The only reason this document was printed was out of necessity to publicly defend ourselves from continued negative attacks.
The Sarasota Fair wishes the Sarasota Medieval Fair the best of luck in their future endeavors in creating a home for their events on a permanent site. We are sure that the cast and crew that have worked hard to make the Sarasota Medieval Fair will continue to showcase their amazing passion and talents to make future productions just as successful as in the past at their new home. The Sarasota Fair continues to follow its dream and vision of creating a venue for exciting events for our community.