The Minnesota Renaissance Festival — where 300,000 visitors go annually to dress up in period costumes, munch on turkey legs and watch jousting competitions — will go on, as long as organizers meet conditions set by Scott County.
After several months of discussion and delayed decisions, the County Board on Tuesday approved an amendment to Mid-America Festival's permit, which is required to operate the festival near Shakopee each summer and fall. The event has been held there since 1973.
Scott County officials had considered revoking the event's conditional use permit after roads leading to the site were clogged for miles at last year's fest. That caused headaches for local residents and businesses, along with fair visitors.
The festival, known as one of the country's largest and most successful Renaissance fairs, is typically held on weekends from late August through early October.
"No one wants to shut down the Renaissance Festival," Scott County Commissioner Jon Ulrich said at Tuesday's board meeting. "We all want to solve the problems."
Philip Kaplan, attorney for Mid-America Festivals, noted that while discussions were contentious early on, there now seems to be a collaborative spirit.
"We've come a really long way here," Kaplan said.
Louisville Township, where the festival is located, unanimously approved a recommendation to OK the permit amendment on March 14, with a few requested changes.
The amended permit includes 10 new and six modified conditions to be met by Mid-America Festivals. The conditions mostly address parking and traffic, said Brad Davis, the county's planning manager.
Some of the new conditions include opening the parking gates earlier — between 7 and 7:30 a.m. — and limiting the number of cars parked on-site to 7,000 per day, not including vendors and employees.
People parking at the festival will now have to purchase a voucher online.
The conditions also set dates for the festival's overall operational, transit and traffic management plans, plus the parking staffing agreement to be submitted to the county this spring, along with other contracts and leases.
"It requires them to have those plans, whereas before they weren't required," said Scott County Commissioner Barb Weckman Brekke.
County officials still had several questions about transit, including details about which busing companies will be providing transportation.
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority said it can provide round trips for 3,500 passengers per day, which still leaves thousands of visitors in need of a place to park or a shuttle, Davis said.
Joe Kapper, a senior manager for transit planning and design for SRF Consulting Group, told the county board he was hired by Mid-America Festivals to work on a plan to address outstanding transit questions. He said he's looking into the schedules, location, capacity and amenities of park-and-ride lots so visitors can shuttle to the festival.
Officials from Mid-America Festivals and Scott County said they didn't want to wait any longer on the permit decision.
Scott County Commissioner Jody Brennan said she wanted to be sure Mid-America Festivals was committed to making details specified in the permit — and, ultimately, the festival — work.
"It's on you to make sure it's a success," Brennan said.