The short version? The Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire is getting screwed, and we need your support to survive.
The background's this: Eleven months ago, the Wicked Winter Renaissance Faire contracted with the Holiday Inn and Conference Center of Edison, New Jersey, for the third Wicked Faire. This year's theme took last year's Pirate-Versus-Ninja battle and placed on top of it the coming of HP Lovecraft's Great Old Ones--or, as we like to call it, "A Renaissance Faire...With Tentacles."
In preparation, we began working closely with the hotel management; we recommended them to another event, Crucible; we even booked our midyear event there, to get more experience in the venue. We paid for the conference space for both events in full and in advance.
The Holiday Inn was bought by new owners on November 2, 2007; these owners fired the entire management team that we'd worked with. We made initial contact with the new management via email on the 7th, and followed up with them by phone and email weekly thereafter. The management was slow and less responsive than we would have liked, but did speak with us, increasing our sleeping room block as we needed, and saying they'd discuss larger issues with us "next week".
We tried to give them time for the transition, but in early December, we felt we needed better responsiveness, and asked our lawyer to communicate with them. This turned into some back-and-forth wherein they claimed they "didn't have a copy of our contract". (Even if this was true, it was a bit late to be telling us that!) Finally, the hotel seemed to settle down, and called us in for our first in-person meeting: we were supposed to sit with the new sales manager to go over "details of our event", as they put it.
When Jeff arrived, he was instead met by the entire new management staff, including the new owner! The new staff said they'd heard prior events were "like a brothel" and had "people" who did not fit with their "family-friendly" hotel. The new owner said flatly that he "would not honor this contract" because it was too financially advantageous to us--plain and simple. Jeff pointed out that it was a properly signed and entered contract; the new owner simply continued repeating that he "would not honor it".
Our lawyer wrote them a receipt-confirmed fax and gave them one week to respond--until December 27th. Their eventual response, at the end of the day on the 27th, was to say that they would now honor the contract--and they then attached conditions to it which were far outside our reading of the original terms, and which clearly appear to us to be designed to make it impossible for us to hold the event there.
During the week when we waited for the Holiday Inn's response, we searched for an alternate venue. But with this much notice, it's pretty much impossible to find a large venue with the kind of availability we need. Even with plenty of time before the event, our venue search can take two or three months--and all of our previous venues were firmly booked.
We were able to find another venue, a bit farther north--a larger and nicer hotel, in fact. But its availability (which is due to a cancellation) is for the week after Faire was to happen--coinciding with Katsucon, Dracula's Ball, and various Valentine's-day plans. Plus, of course, many eventgoers, vendors, and performers have already made alternate plans; the date of Faire was announced a year ago.
Financially, with our investment in the Holiday Inn, we are not in a position to cancel or postpone the event even if we wanted to: it is going to happen in February.
At this time, we are seeking your help! We know what the hotel means when it says it doesn't want "those kinds of people". We need your support to survive--and we promise to continue to do our best to support the community, every day, to the fullest extent of our abilities.
Three things you might do:
First--tell people about Faire! And do feel free to tell people that we're in trouble, through no fault of our own, but because of simple greed and ignorance. Spread the word. Tell scifi groups about the world's first Lovecraftian Renfaire. Tell queer and Pagan folk about a queer-and-Pagan-run event which is under attack. Tell people in general that we're a great time. Tell people individually, and tell groups. Spread the word--about our troubles, if you want, and about the Faire itself, absolutely.
Second--buy tickets, if you're able and it's appropriate. This is the time when we really need that help. I know that most people buy their tickets a bit closer to the event--I do that, myself! But if you can, it would really help.
Third--Email me at jeffmach[at]runningwatermusic.com if you'd like to know more; want to offer assistance; have friends who want to help; or are with a group, organization, or event which might like to ally for assistance.