NORMAN, Okla. – Just like tailgaters during football season, the Medieval Fair is a yearly occurrence along the OU campus each spring.
The Medieval Fair first began in 1977 by a group of English professors at the University of Oklahoma.
“As much a community event as it was a university event, it moved from being run by the English Department to being a part of University of Oklahoma Outreach,” said Ann Marie Eckart, who coordinates the Medieval Fair each year.
However, the event has fallen on hard times.
“We’ve had to dip into our reserves to make ends meet, and we’ve now totally exhausted our reserves because of two years of bad weather,” she said.
Last year, rain and colder temperatures forced organizers to close part of the three-day festival. As a result, attendance and revenue dropped dramatically.
“About half our revenue comes from vendor rentals and the other half of our revenue comes from commissions off of food sales and games,” said Eckart. “When the attendance is down, we lose those commissions.”
Usually, the Medieval Fair brings in about 300,000 people from across the area. Last year, that number dwindled to 150,000.
Now, an event the celebrates everything from years past is having to embrace change.
This April, Eckart says there will be fewer stages, including the Maypole Stage.
“We had belly dancers, jugglers, Celtic musicians. About half of those have moved to other lanes or other stages,” Eckart said.
Visitors will also have to pay more for parking at Lloyd Noble Center.
“They’re going to go ahead and raise parking to $10 and then split the proceeds with us so that should, hopefully, be a shot in the arm to get us back on track and get our reserves back,” she said.
Eckart says it’s one of the only free medieval fairs in the country, and she wants to keep it that way.
“We want to keep it open and accessible to the general public,” she said.
Now, they wait and hope that Mother Nature will go easier on them this year.
The 43rd annual Medieval Fair is being held from April 5 through April 7 at Reaves Park in Norman.