The inaugural North Dakota Renaissance Festival got off to a sizzling start Saturday in Regent.
By Brad Mosher
With temperatures hovering near 90 degrees in the open field behind the Enchanted Castle, it still had a strong opening day Saturday.
But organizer Randy Jones said he quickly learned some lessons from the opening day. The biggest lesson was the need for more shade.
He said he helped improve that when he bought large umbrellas and placed them in large wooden spindles, providing shady areas for the audiences in the jousting area as well as around the booths.
But Mother Nature had another surprise for him when he came back to the site Sunday morning for the second day of the festival. The canopy he used for his booth was hundreds of yards away, crumpled, thanks to stormy weather for the second straight night accompanied by high winds.
Jones said he advertised the festival with radio and television interviews over previous months throughout the state.
He is hoping that helps bring in more people from all over the state throughout the rest of the summer before the festival closes down Sept. 1. Until that day, the festival will be open on weekends in Regent, just east of the Enchanted Castle.
One woman, a former California resident, said when she saw the festival advertised, she had to come all the way to Regent.
That, Jones said, was what he was hoping to do, create something that would make the small Hettinger County city a destination, like his former employer, Gary Greff, had done with his giant Enchanted Highway metal sculptures. “I worked for him for a few months, then I had a bad car accident. He got a replacement during the six months that I was gone.” He went back to work at the Brickhouse Grille in Dickinson.
He said that he got the idea about a renaissance themed event before his car accident sidelined him.
For Jones, the whole idea has been a learning experience and helps him make changes and improvements. “Okay. There’s problem. Identified. Make it not a problem and move on to the next thing,” he said, discussing the giant red umbrellas around the festival.
Jones kept busy, cooking turkey legs, hot corn on the cob, hamburgers and hot dogs on a pair of grills behind his area. He also sold soda and, later in the day, beer.
He likes using the extra large spindles as a wall for the event. “I like it as a wall. It kind of fits the genre and stuff,” he said.
Although it was slower Sunday than on his opening day, having advanced sales helped, Jones added.
He had the Knights of Mayhem performing jousting and sword fighting exhibitions, along various performers in the main area, including the “Lovely Dozen” belly dancers and an acrobatic troupe.
Jones hopes to get more vendors in as the summer progresses. “We had more Saturday, opening day.
“A lot of people are like ‘prove it’. I really don’t need to prove it to anybody. I put it on and if it happens, it happens.”
He said he has already talked to a kettle corn vendor who does a lot of events in Dickinson. “Nothing yet, but if we get a little more activity, maybe we will,” Jones added. In addition, he is working to bring in other craft vendors in keeping with with theme, like pottery.
He also noted that he has gotten some nice comments about the event on Facebook.
He is already looking at additional improvements, including a long table and large sitting area.
Some of the improvements may have to be next summer because of budgetary reasons, Jones added.
He admits that he is in a medieval version of the chicken or egg where it is hard to get people to come to an event until they know it is happening.
“We have done some very good advertising on Facebook and iHeart media. We were on MIX in Dickinson, iHeart in Bismarck… on a station in Fargo and a station Minot. We did an interview with a fellow on the radio in Jamestown,” he said, adding he has talk to local television stations in the area. We did a couple of morning interviews on the stations here in Dickinson. We have gotten out there, but there is still a lot of people who haven’t heard.”
Still, it it gets up and running successfully, he thinks it will help Regent get more business in the long run.
“I am really trying to pair with Gary so that we do kind of help each other out.” Jones explained. “It is a struggle out here in a small town, but I’m fine with it.
“I am not disappointed. I’ll plug along the first year, and if we survive, we’ll be bigger and better next year,” he said.