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Handshake seals deal as Renaissance festival finds another home

Organizers expect to open fair on Linn County site in July 2008

A Renaissance festival that bypassed Washington County's fairgrounds will open in July 2008 in Linn County.

Oregon Renaissance Festival Inc. has reached a 'handshake deal' with Linn County officials, which should bring the six-week event to a 180-acre site in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Robert Levine of Oregon Renaissance Festival said his group reached a tentative deal Monday. Linn County representatives plan to catapult the issue into the planning process, moving quickly so the organization can schedule entertainers, employees and exhibitors.

'I've been led to believe by Linn County that the site has been acquired and now they have to go through their permitting process,' Levine said. 'But they'll get it done in an expeditious manner.'

The deal with Linn County came a little more than a week after Oregon Renaissance Festival decided against trying to schedule a 2008 fair at the Washington County fair complex. Levine said the slow pace of negotiations and questions about the fairgrounds' future were big red flags for the national group that hosts Renaissance festivals in Arizona and North Carolina.

'We wanted to put the festival in Washington County, but the timeline is just not working out,' Levine said last week.

On April 4, a 15-member Fair Revitalization Task Force met to begin a several-week process of looking at uses and new development for the 101-acre fairgrounds.

Work by the task force probably wouldn't be completed in time for the Oregon Renaissance Festival group to plan for its 2008 event, Levine said. The festival group needs at least a year to line up performers, exhibitors and employees who travel the annual fair circuit, camping out and bringing the Renaissance to life in cities across the country.

County fair complex leaders had talked since September with the Renaissance festival group about putting a possible fair on the fairgrounds. The idea was floated publicly in December with estimates that the county could earn thousands of dollars from the fair and, in return, get between $1 million and $2 million in building reconstruction and renovation.

Could Washington County get back in the running for the festival if the fairgrounds' work is completed quickly? Maybe, Levine said, but not likely.

'It's always possible that some roadblock comes up,' he said. 'But, as it stands now, we're pretty comfortable we have a deal.'