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The Renaissance Festival will go on

I haven’t gone to RenFest in years, and I can’t say I was itching to go this year, but it will be there for those who want it.

The 46th annual Texas Renaissance Festival will go on as scheduled this year, but things will look a little different due to the pandemic.

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 1, tickets will be available for the 2020 festival, which starts Oct. 3 and runs through Nov. 29. Tickets will be date-specific, sold in advance online only and will not be available at the gate, according to the festival website. Tickets may also be purchased at participating H-E-B stores beginning Sept. 1.

The most visible change at the nine-week-long festival is that all staff, performers and vendors will be required to wear a face-covering and receive daily temperature checks before each shift, according to a press release.

If a statewide mask order is in place at the time of the festival, patrons will also be required to wear face masks. If no state order is in place, patrons will not be required but “strongly encouraged to do so.” In line with the festival’s long-standing tradition of themed weekends and creative costumes, a face mask contest will be held every day in search of the attendee with the most creatively decorated mask.

Texas counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases are currently under a statewide mask order. Grimes County, where the festival is held, has 828 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the latest available data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Houston region is still considered a COVID-19 hotspot and is currently at 98,565 cases total. Texas saw the second-highest day for newly reported deaths on Wednesday, per a Houston Chronicle analysis of state data.

[…]

[Texas Renaissance Festival Marketing Manager Marlena] Solomon said the festival’s 200-acre campground typically never meets 50 percent capacity during a normal season, so capacity limitations will not be issued for this season. She added that in anticipation of capacity limitations that could be issued closer to October, the festival grounds will be limited to 22,500 guests per day.

My interpretation of this is that all guests would be required to wear a mask at this time, since Grimes County is covered by that statewide mask order. But after reading this additional story, I’m not so sure of that.

The mask-optional policy has left some workers feeling that the festival will be unsafe. Niki Korontana has been working at the Renaissance Fest for 12 years, performing as a Transylvanian and pirate for 10 of those years.

She is anemic and has to have iron infusion treatments to correct the disorder. Her fragile immune system leaves her vulnerable to COVID-19, she said, and the festival’s resistance ro institute a mask order puts her in danger. She said she resigned via email and has not received a response from management.

“I do understand that we’re dealing with a lot of upheaval,” she said. “Maybe getting back to me is not a priority, but I put a lot into this job. There’s no way to socially distance in a lot of places. There’s limited access to water and hand-washing. The faire population, as a whole, is broke with no access to health care. On the regular we all get ‘faire sick’ every year even without the outbreak. We’re used to working through all of that, and I can easily imagine people infecting others.”

The festival has lost more than half of their performing staff this year, said marketing and communications manager Marlena Solomon. That estimate includes elderly workers, people in at-risk populations and those who may not want to wear masks in the hot early weekends of the event.

“We respect their decision not to come this season due to their concerns regarding facemasks,” Solomon said. “They will be welcome back next year. No one will be penalized for not being a part of this season.”

Ginnie Eatchel, who has worked at the festival for five years, doesn’t have health issues, but she said she’s quitting, too, without at mask mandate. She said she doesn’t understand how patrons can expect performers to work in full medieval dress, including suits of armor, while they balk at being asked to wear a mask.

“Many of these people at fair are of the Trump mindset saying, ‘No one can impede on my freedom’ or ‘If they make me wear a mask, I’m not buying a pass this year,’” she said. “It’s such a selfish mindset. You’re doing it for other people.”

Solomon said that partisan concerns are not behind the voluntary mask policy. “The decisions are not being made based on political views of our patrons,” she said.

Sure seems like a good case for mandating masks to me. I’d prefer that the RenFest require mask wearing, but I’m not likely to attend anyway, so who cares what I think. Honestly, I’m a little surprised to see that they’re open at all, since many other outdoor events have been cancelled. I would have thought RenFest is sufficiently spaced out that they can reasonably minimize the risks, but now I’m rethinking that. Sure would be nice to be able to do reliable contact tracing just in case. Anyway, RenFest has been going through some changes, so maybe this was just about trying to have a little more normality in our lives. I can sympathize with that.

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22 Comments

  1. Bill Danielsb says:

    The Ren Fest is shooting themselves in the foot here. Date specific tickets? No tickets sold at the venue? You are forcing your patrons to gamble on the weather, which will decimate early ticket sales, which should help pay to get things kicked off. Who would buy a ticket for a specific day months out and take a chance that there isn’t a thunderstorm that day? Then you’re doubling down by making it harder for those who are spur of the moment attendees.

  2. David Fagan says:

    I was reading on their website they will only use new thermometers based on a design by Michelangelo. They look kinda scary, but if you hear screams of pain, it’s just in the name of keeping everyone safe.

  3. brad says:

    Bill,

    “You are forcing your patrons to gamble on the weather, which will decimate early ticket sales,…”

    So is the alternative having no crowd management so patrons can be decimated by a highly infectious disease which is coursing through our country due to the SS Trump (think Titanic) ignoring the ample warning we had and the U.S. squandering every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus?

  4. Jules says:

    So you have to buy a ticket “months out” to be sure to get a ticket, yet nobody will do this, hence tickets will be available…yet nobody can buy a ticket online “spur of the moment” because…they will be sold out?

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    As usual, you aren’t looking at things from a business perspective. Can we assume that the Ren Fest uses the proceeds from early ticket sales to kick things off for the season? Purchases have to be made. Vendors need payment. I’m making that assumption. OK, so killing off pre sales is going to negatively impact their ability to even open in the first place. Making patrons pick a date in advance is going to make the ticket purchase more of a gamble, so it will likely come down to people willing to buy online tickets either day of, or a few days before, once weather and scheduling is more clear. That’s horrible from a cash flow standpoint, and of course, people out and about who get a wild hair to attend will have to go home to their computer and buy tickets online instead of just driving to the festival and paying on site.

    Jules,

    You had 60,000 rioters in a space 1/50th the size of the Ren Fest facility, and there was absolutely no worry or concern about “infections disease which is coursing through our country.” Is there something about the SS George Kirby that confers disease immunity on people? Maybe the Ren Fest just needs to place a George Kirby shrine above the entrance gates? Didn’t you and others make the argument that large gatherings of rioters outdoors was no problem? I mean, it’s the Ren Fest, not a dangerous outdoor church service, right? Can you see how you appear just a tad bit hypocritical to anyone looking at this logically and dispassionately?

  6. brad says:

    Bill,

    You are right. I am not looking at things from a business perspective. I am looking at things from a global pandemic and public health perspective.

    COVID doesn’t give a hoot about businesses.

    Looks like RFest is being actually smart and adapting their business to the pandemic and public health conditions.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    ” I am looking at things from a global pandemic and public health perspective.”

    Great! Let me know when you come out strongly against all the rioting in Portland, Minneapolis, and other places. Surely this new found emphasis on public health will necessitate your vociferous opposition to any more ‘mostly peaceful’ street protesting. Not one more protest, amirite?

    I’ll wait.

  8. Jules says:

    “Didn’t you and others make the argument that large gatherings of rioters outdoors was no problem?”

    No, no I didn’t.

  9. brad says:

    Bill,

    I love playing your segue whack-a-mole game all day long.

    I’ll answer your question the minute you provide any credible research/study on HCQ that isn’t from a website that also promotes the existence of bigfoot, denies the Holocaust, denies the moon landings actually happened, and that Elvis is still alive.

  10. C.L. says:

    I’m becoming increasingly tired of the ‘wha, wha, what about those people who rioted ? They weren’t wearing masks and they marched in the streets, arms locked, burning shit down…. so no one should be concerned about dying from C19 ’cause restaurants need to make a dollar and Football makes ‘Murica great.

    That’s ‘whataboutism’ to the Nth degree.

  11. Jules says:

    CL, exactly, these dumdums won’t only jump off a cliff if their friends do, they’ll jump off a cliff after their enemies too.

  12. Jason Hochman says:

    brad, the Henry Ford Medical Center published a paper which showed some promise with hydroxychloriquine. It is a retrospective, observational study, so it is not a clinical trial. But it merits further study, just like the BCG vaccine which is being study. I would imagine that they both work in a similar way.

  13. brad says:

    Did the Henry Ford study detail any safety side effects to the heart, lymph system, liver and kidneys from using HCQ that have been highlighted by the FDA?

    Sounds a little Thalidomide-y.

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    The good folks over at Baylor and Texas A&M….does their opinion carry any weight with you?

    https://thetexan.news/baylor-cardiologists-support-hydroxychloroquine-emergency-use-authorization-by-fda/

    What you have to ask yourself is, why is it so damned important that this or that drug or drug cocktail NOT be used? I’m pretty sure none of the peanut gallery here besides maybe Kubosh, would be too upset to see me dead from the ‘rona. So what if I want to take the advice of the chief of cardiology at Baylor and take the HCQ/azithromycin/zinc combo? Didn’t Trump sign a right to try EO?

    So I want to take something that’s gonna kill me and deform my arms and legs. My body, my choice, right? And if I die, all the better, right?

  15. Jason Hochman says:

    brad, according to their paper there were no heart related side effects. The paper that found the heart related side effects was retracted, although it isn’t necessarily completely wrong.

    The CDC has posted a review paper on its web site, which looked at non pharmaceutical measures for pandemic influenza. Hand washing? Not very helpful. Masks? No evidence that they made a difference. Then, the paper went on to state that improperly worn masks can cause infections, and it is important to educate people on proper wear and disposal of the masks. So there you go, the masks are probably causing more illness. Granted this was influenza, not COVID, but both spread through similar means. But, I guess influenza is not asymptomatic as often. Which then brings up the question of why are we going so crazy about a virus with overwhelming odds that an infection will be either asymptomatic or have a mild to moderate self limiting illness.

    The news has also largely ignored that Germans protested government mandated closures and shutdowns and mask orders. Some estimates were over one million people were involved. They have seen this kind of government seizure of power before.

    Also, I don’t see much news about the suicides, substance abuse, overdoses, and other psychological illnesses brought about by loss of income, loss of a business, eviction, loneliness, isolation, and all of the other knock on effects of closing everything.

    Also, I don’t see much about obesity, which is a big risk factor for serious complications of COVID. The US does have a significant amount of obese residents. Instead of all the mask shaming, they could encourage healthy eating and exercise, post healthy recipes. Or even have a BMI scan and arrest people over the limit.

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    And since this thread has turned into an open discussion, how about let’s all watch the FIRST 8 minutes of the George Kirby arrest.

    https://streamable.com/6ubxjx

    Why is it nobody wanted you to see THIS part? Is it because it shows Kirby wigging out hard? Is it because his two friends both freely admit he’s higher than a mofo? Is it because it shows George kicking his way OUT of the back of the squad car? Wow, so THAT’S how he ended up on the ground, in handcuffs. The handcuffed, meth and fentanyl fueled St. Floyd managed to get out of a squad car with at least 3 cops trying to get him in. Pathetic.

    Fentanyl Floyd was paranoid, higher than a mofo, overdosed, had a heart attack and would have died whether he had a knee on his neck or not. If there’s any justice, the only charge to find the cops guilty on would be whatever failure to render aid works out to be in legalese.

    Ask yourself why only the bad for the cops portion of the tape was made public. Why? Why not show this part, too?

  17. Jason Hochman says:

    I thought that it was George Floyd, not George Kirby who was arrested.

    I thought that the George Floyd incident was egregious.

    I thought that the woman in New York who called the cops because she was threatened by an African American man was a bit histrionic, BUT that video didn’t start until after the conflict had been going on for a few minutes. The man posted his transcript of the episode on his Facebook page, and he did say some vaguely threatening things to the woman.

    The media here is so full of rage, and only posts things that support its desire for a government that was able, within five months, to dictate where we can gather and for what purposes, which businesses are allowed to be open, force people to wear a face covering, get temperature checks, etc.

  18. Bill Daniels says:

    Jason,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFUSu4qpvd8

    Are you gonna contradict Nancy Pelosi?

  19. C.L. says:

    If you’re still confused about wearing a mask, Jason, whether it works or it doesn’t, I wholeheartedly think you shouldn’t wear one. I just ask you don’t wear one in the confines of Your Own Home. If you’re out in the street and within 16-20’ feet of me, I’d appreciate you donning one toot suite.

  20. Jules says:

    Bill: “I’m pretty sure none of the peanut gallery here besides maybe Kubosh, would be too upset to see me dead from the ‘rona. ”

    Also Bill: “Herman Caine had stage 4 cancer, in his 70’s. Think about what the cancer treatments did to ravage his immune system. The guy was already dying, and decided not to lock himself in his basement like Joe Biden and go out and live what life he had left.”

    I would need more info as to Bill’s age, general health, and how much time he spent cowering in his basement vs going to rallies to figure out how upset I would be.

  21. C.L. says:

    @Jules….

    Awesome.

  22. Jules says:

    Thank you CL, thank you very much

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