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Sterling Renaissance Festival Now Open for the Season

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Sterling Renaissance Festival Now Open for the Season
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STERLING, N.Y. -- After 38 years, many of the attractions are familiar, but visitors to the Sterling Renaissance Festival differ as to what keeps them coming back year after year.

"It's just a totally different atmosphere, it takes you away from the electronics of everyday," said Michelle Rivers, visiting the festival from Syracuse.

"Honestly, it's not so much the history for me as much as it is dressing up and being a total geek," said Laura Chilson, who traveled from Ithaca to take part.

But the owner says this year's event almost didn't happen. Just weeks before the festival was to begin, management turned to the public with help raising $300,000 after a major lender didn't come through. It was a move that left some with questions.

"This is the most expensive Renaissance fair that we've ever been to, and we've been to several. To me, I'm skeptical about why they would need to raise money," said Chilson.

Owner Doug Waterbury says the $3.1 million festival comes with year-round expenses.

"There's all the property repairs and maintenance, there's the insurances, there's the year-round staff that we require, a number of these factors kind of came together, but the amount of money we needed wasn't out of the norm," said Waterbury.

The public helped raise $18,000, but a bank ended up coming to the event's aid with about $285,000. Waterbury says money from supporters will help with wear and tear issues.

"The lending arrangement was that those dollars would be put into the company as well as far as the operating expenses. For example, today we realized we need new cash registers, we need about a dozen or 15 new two-way radios," he said.

Many say they're just glad to see the festival return so they can take in the excitement, favorite foods, and of course, good music.

"My favorite event is when the gate opens, my least favorite is when it closes," said Hans Bellinger of Syracuse, who says he's been coming to the festival for 19 years.

But festival fans have a few weeks of fun before that happens.

The Sterling Renaissance Festival is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It runs until August 17.

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