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Renaissance Fair firm ponders Oregon site

New county task force looks at the future of the Washington County Fairgrounds

A company that wants to stage a six-week Renaissance Fair at the Washington County Fairgrounds will choose this week between the Hillsboro site and a spot in Linn County.

Robert Levine of Oregon Renaissance Festival Inc. said last week that a four-member team would visit both Washington and Linn counties Tuesday to evaluate the sites.

Levine said the group probably will decide on a site for the 2008 event by the end of this week. The company needs about a year to prepare a site and get ready for the summer festival.

'We'll give one party 60 days to put it together and then go from there,' he said from his office in Saint Louis Park, Minn.

The company delegation's visit comes one week before a new task force studying the future of Washington County's Fairgrounds holds it first meeting.

The 15-member Fairgrounds Revitalization Task Force meets at 3 p.m. April 4 in the Sycamore Room of the Beaverton Community Center, 12350 S.W. Fifth St.

Fourteen members of the committee were appointed Tuesday by the county's Board of Commissioners.

The task force will be led by commission Chairman Tom Brian and Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes.

Brian said that the group would study the long-term economic viability and service of the 101-acre fairgrounds property.

'Our challenge will be to develop a plan that maintains and improves the traditional county fair and traditional uses while increasing the capacity and adding community value as a place for a wide range of additional community events and activities,' he said.

'The viable future of the fairgrounds is important to all of us,' Hughes said. 'I'm pleased that a representative group is going to help us figure that out.'

The task force is expected to take several weeks to come up with its findings.

It was suggested late last year after fairgrounds officials said they were negotiating with Oregon Renaissance Festival Inc. to bring an event to the area possibly in July 2008.

Fair Board members sent the Renaissance fair proposal two weeks ago to county commissioners for final talks and possible approval.

The Renaissance fair proposal has been caught in the middle of a longstanding tussle among some fair supporters who want to maintain the traditional event and others who hope to redevelop part of the 101-acre site for an expo center.

Under the Renaissance fair plan, about 25 acres of the fairgrounds would be closed off by a 6-foot-high fence and fair buildings would be rebuilt or improved to match the event's medieval village theme.

The company would spend about $1 million to $2 million on the projects and would bring in dozens of traveling artists, craftspeople and performers to be part of the event.

Levine said two weeks ago that his group was disappointed at the slow pace of talks. His company also is considering a proposal to stage the Renaissance fair on about 180 acres in Linn County.

On Wednesday, Levine said his group had not 'ruled out either site' but wanted to get a decision quickly so it could begin planning and constructing facilities.

'We can't let this process go on for both locations,' he said. 'Both sites have to take some fairly strong actions.'

Task force members

Members of the county fairgrounds task force include:

-Commissioner Tom Brian.

-Commissioner Andy Duyck.

-Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes.

-County Fair Complex Board member W. Rafe Flagg.

-County Fair Boosters President Dave Rohrer.

-Fair Complex users representative Allen Van Volkinburgh.

-Hillsboro business representative Deanna Palm, president of the Greater Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce.

-Visitor and tourism representative Terry Goldman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Washington County.

-Agricultural business representative Kristin Marchesi, president of the Washington County Winery Association.

-Hillsboro citizen representative Jim Darr.

-Western county citizen representative Bob Terry.

-Eastern county citizen representative Jack Franklin.

-Northern county citizen representative John Leeper, a former county commissioner.

-Southern county citizen representative Delna Jones, also a former county commissioner.

The Washington County Fair Complex is south of the Hillsboro Airport at the intersection of Northeast 34th Avenue and Cornell Road.

The county began hosting a fair on the site in the early 1950s. This year's event begins July 26.