Renaissance Festival making history with 30th anniversary

Going on 30 years of celebrating the medieval lifestyle, the Colorado Renaissance Festival is making history.

Posted 5/31/06

Chris Lawson / clawson@ccnewspapers.com Colorado Renaissance Festival owner Jim Paradise Sr. is looking forward to the event's 30th year, set to open …

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Renaissance Festival making history with 30th anniversary

Going on 30 years of celebrating the medieval lifestyle, the Colorado Renaissance Festival is making history.

Posted

Chris Lawson / clawson@ccnewspapers.com

Colorado Renaissance Festival owner Jim Paradise Sr. is looking forward to the event's 30th year, set to open June 10 in Larkspur.

By Kiersten J. Mayer

Going on 30 years of celebrating the medieval lifestyle, the Colorado Renaissance Festival is making history.

Thoughts of moving the festival, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, from Larkspur have receded into the background after three years of litigation over water and sewer bills.

The RenFest was originally a teardown show and spent its first two years in Morrison. Then operators brought it to Castle Rock and finally settled in Larkspur after the festival's site was properly developed.

"I had all black hair when I started this thing," festival owner Jim Paradise Sr. said.

Owners and organizers began attracting attorneys and accountants. Over its history, the festival has transformed into family-oriented entertainment, he said. When Renaissance festivals enjoyed a nationwide renaissance several decades ago, few had a craft show every weekend, so Larkspur's festival was unique. Thirty years later there is more competition with craft shows and festivals across Colorado. Everything sold at the RenFest is hand made, which Paradise thinks is vital.

The first Colorado Renaissance Festival featured 60 artisan booths; that number now is about 200. Artisans create and sell pottery, leather, candles, drums, armor and more. Medieval tradesmen such as blacksmiths, glassblowers and fortune tellers also display their skills.

RenFest marketing director Jim Paradise Jr. spent his childhood playing the games and being a part of festival life in Minnesota. While he took time as an adult to play minor league hockey and had a stint as general manager for a team in Florida, he decided six years ago to join the family business.

"It's kind of a passion," he said. "I love being a part of it because there are so many different aspects of it."

Three decades is a landmark for any business, especially one that's open eight weekends a year, he said. The RenFest attracts acts that could perform at Disney World or Las Vegas, but coming to Larkspur is a unique experience.

In normal years, specific acts perform the whole season, but this year different acts are featured on certain weekends. New entertainment for year 30 includes Danny Lord of Mischief, Stefano's Theater, The Polo Bros. and a magic and illusion show.

Festival favorites Puke & Snot, Cast in Bronze Carillon bells and Ded Bob and his "dummy" Smudge will all return for eight weekends this summer. From an entertainment standpoint, Paradise Sr. said a lot of national acts began at the local venue.

"Penn and Teller started out here," he said. "A lot of acts have ended up in New York on Broadway."

Over the years attendance at the festival has grown to about 200,000 people.

"The success is very weather-related, of course, so we keep our fingers crossed," Paradise Sr. said.

Overcoming the last three years of fighting in court with Larkspur town officials is going slowly since Paradise Sr. and his staff are focusing on getting the festival open and having a successful year. He hopes to work with Larkspur's town council to re-establish a working business relationship, but said they haven't had any meaningful planning yet. Litigation is pending on appeals, a lawsuit against former Larkspur engineer Jim Miller and a libel lawsuit against former Mayor Myrna Been.

"When you think about the town and the litigation costing us $600,000, that's difficult to forget about," Paradise Sr. said "You don't sweep $600,000 under the rug."

On a brighter note, Paradise Sr. said he may throw a big party when he gets the last attorney's bill and he anticipates progress with Larkspur officials in the next few months.

"We're just happy to be around 30 years and are hoping to have a great year," he said.

Improvements at one of Colorado's premier summer events will make it an even more enjoyable experience. New paint, mist systems and shaded areas are among improvements, along with fresh new street characters, Paradise Jr. said.

"We're doing something right, obviously, to be around for 30 years," he said.

Contact Kiersten J. Mayer at kmayer@ccnewspapers.com.

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