Festival touts successful season

A Renaissance Festival worker swings the Flying Dragon ride during one of the festival’s 2008 weekends. Enlarge photo

October 23, 2008

In light of recent economic headlines, the 2008 ticket sales for the Kansas City Renaissance Festival seem almost as anachronistic as its performers’ get-ups.

Carrie Shoptaw, general manager for the annual festival in nearby Bonner Springs, thinks the attendance of about 192,000 was “up quite a bit from last year.”

Shoptaw said that fact might owe, counter-intuitively, to the bad financial news of the last few weeks.

“In some ways I think entertainment is one of those things that continues to be successful,” Shoptaw said. “Even when times are tough, people still go to entertainment events.”

The festival ran on weekends and holidays from Aug. 30 to Oct. 13.

“I think just a lot of people made their vacations in town,” Shoptaw said, as a result of high gasoline prices.

That wasn’t necessarily true in previous downturns, Shoptaw said.

“That has hurt us before, because people started hoarding, making sure they had enough money to get through winter,” she said.

Besides ticket sales, money that attendees spent at the festival didn’t appear to have dropped much either, Shoptaw said.

“We didn’t have any significant differences when it came to revenue,” she said. “People also took great advantage of our discount weekends. I noticed they were really paying attention to coupons and going on weekends with deeper discounts — that helps a lot.”

The arts and crafts merchants “did really well” this year on sales, Shoptaw said, though it appeared customers “were a little more conservative when it came to buying food,” and spent less per-customer.

Another factor helping the festival’s turnout this year was a spate of good weather.

“We were extremely fortunate,” Shoptaw said. “Rains hit us weekends two and three,” when attendance is usually somewhat down, she said.

It’s on the festival’s last weekends that rain can make a difference, she said, because some 23,000 attend during the last couple of weekends, and “if it rains, that can take the whole year down.”

“The last month we were open we didn’t have rain,” she said.

Even forecasts of possible precipitation can affect attendance, Shoptaw said.

“Any kind of report on the weather, sometimes they’ll forecast things that don’t happen, and people from four hours away won’t drive, thinking it’s going go to rain,” she said.

Shoptaw said she and her staff hadn’t begun to plan for next year, in part because immediately after the Renaissance Festival’s last weekend they began preparing for the Phantom’s Feaste. The event is a Victorian-horror-themed dinner for adults, with a six-course meal, and takes place every day except Sundays and Mondays through Oct. 31, with tickets sold out for Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31. Oct. 22 is canceled because of severe-weather forecasts. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the festival’s Web site at

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