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Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Picked To Be Trump's Running Mate

Ohio Renaissance Festival wants to detach from Harveysburg, remain in same location

The Free Lancers deliver hard hits and thrilling action at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.
Ohio Renaissance Festival
The Free Lancers deliver hard hits and thrilling action at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.

The courting and romance are apparently over between the southern Ohio village of Harveysburg and the Ohio Renaissance Festival.

The festival known for jousting duels and revelers decked out in full Renaissance regalia has called Harveysburg home for nearly 30 years, but now wants to detach because the village has threatened to impose an entertainment tax on its tickets.

That’s not the only reason festival organizers want to depart. A statement on detachment on the festival’s website stated that the festival is better aligned with neighboring Massie Township.

A civil suit filed in Warren County Common Pleas court by the festival's parent company Brimstone and Fire, LLC, said the festival grounds were originally in Massie Township but annexed into Harveysburg in 1995.

Ohio Renaissance Festival Managing Partner Dan Ashcraft said at the time, Harveysburg offered the festival water and its desired zoning. Now, the festival gets water from Warren County. Ashcraft said the festival currently gets “zero services” from Harveysburg.

Ashcraft said in detaching from Harveysburg, the festival could also finally add a right turning lane on State Route 73 to alleviate traffic backup from I-71. The festival officials started the process to add a lane, but the Ohio Department of Transportation told organizers they would have to deed land to Harveysburg to finish the project. Ashcraft said it would be easier to complete with Massie Township, which does road paving unlike Harveysburg.

Cutting loose

Ohio law allows farmland to separate from one municipality and join another if it meets certain qualifications.

Court documents show that Harveysburg disagreed that the properties in question are farmland, but Ashcraft said that much of Brimstone and Fire’s land is farmed through the off-season. The Ohio Renaissance Festival only runs weekends in September and October, with a few other events on the grounds throughout the year.

Brimstone and Fire owns a dozen parcels that together total more than 250 acres, the Warren County Auditor’s website shows. That’s about one-third of Harveysburg’s total land area, which is just over a square mile.

To detach from the tiny village, which in the 2020 census had a population of just over 550, Brimstone and Fire must prove that its land was not originally part of the village and was annexed more than five years ago. It also must show that it doesn’t receive sufficient services for the amount it’s taxed by Harveysburg.

Additionally, Brimstone and Fire must prove that moving the festival won’t hurt Harveysburg.

Impacts

For the past 25 years, the Ohio Renaissance Festival and the village of Harveysburg have had a community development contract that began at $20,000 and increased by $1,000 each year, Ashcraft said. The contract ended last year with the Ohio Renaissance Festival paying Harveysburg $44,000.

Ashcraft admitted that isn’t “chump change” for the small village, estimating it at about 14% of Harveysburg's budget. He said, however, that there are other ways the village could generate that funding. He suggested a 1% income tax, which doesn’t require a vote, according to Ohio law. Voters in the village turned down two levies last November.

Harveysburg officials did not respond to a request for comment, but village council meeting minutes chronicle discussions about the Ohio Renaissance Festival and the possible ticket tax.

Council Member Mark Tipton noted that since the township doesn’t have significant industry or business, the village must find “alternative income streams” to generate money, especially after voters made it clear they did not want additional taxes.

Harveysburg Mayor Richard Verga said that the roughly $90,000 the village brings in from traffic tickets could be cut in half without the festival, because police would no longer be able to cite violators on the roadway in front of the festival grounds.

Agency

With the expiration of the community development contract, the Ohio Renaissance Festival will no longer be contractually obligated to support the village of Harveysburg.

Ashcraft said that while the festival could use some of those saved funds to offset possible ticket price increases should there be an admissions tax, festival organizers would rather put that money toward community donations.

“Funding is a precious resource, and you try to prioritize it. And again, our priorities obviously are different than what a village's or a township's would be,” Ashcraft said.

He said organizers would rather direct their support to the Massie Township Fire Department, which covers a larger area than Harveysburg, while continuing to support Harveysburg police and the community's food bank. He added that improving intersections that affect traffic coming to and from the festival would also impact a large part of the community.

Regardless of whether the Ohio Renaissance Festival legally lands in Massie Township or the village of Harveysburg, this fall revelers will still be able to enjoy turkey legs, festive music and pirates and Vikings and fools (oh my!).

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.