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Ron Patterson, Held First Renaissance Faire, Dies at 80
JANUARY 31, 2011 TAGS:
From Laurel Canyon to the Heartland…When Ron Patterson, who died January 15, and his wife devised the first modern Renaissance Fair in 1963, they imagined the event as an educational and recreational festival for children. Lo, these many decades passed, the Renaissance Fair (nay, Faire) is no longer child’s play. It is a summer institution around the country, drawing millions of swordsman, wenches, fairies and gallant knights alike--most of whom are very much grown up--to ersatz villages replete with guilds of craftsman, jousting competitions, plentiful mead and the occasional madrigal.
Were it not for Ron Patterson’s inaugural event in Southern California, the retro-modern love for all things chivalric may never have taken hold. Patterson was an art director by training and his wife was a teacher. They would host children’s workshops and performances in the backyard of their Los Angeles home, under the name The Piccadilo Players. In 1963, their yearly efforts graduated to a campground in North Hollywood, and due in large part to Patterson’s fastidious attention to design detail (recreating Elizabeth town and wardrobe) and his performance as the “Master of Revels” (which the Times describes as “equal parts lord mayor, court jester and benevolent tout”) Patterson’s Faire became a hit and was quickly replicated across the country.
RenFaire, by the numbers.
- The Minnesota Renaissance Festival estimates 320,000 visitors per season, which includes seven weekends every the summer
- Renaissance Faire Productions, which purchased the Patterson’s fair in 1994, operates four Renaissance Faires across the country in South California, Wisconsin, Illinois and New York State.
- According to Wikipedia, 33 Renaissance Faires take place in the U.S. each summer, with a combined estimated attendance of 3,218,000 visitors per year.
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