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      Renaissance Festival asking for public donations

      Work is going on at the Renaissance Festival site in Sterling, but the owner says he needs $300,000 for opening, and is appealing to the public for donations

      Sterling's Renaissance Festival is appealing for money---$300,000---to cover opening costs for this year's season, which is scheduled to start on July 5th.

      The Festival has needed loans to cover opening costs for several years, but this year's private funder pulled out just weeks ago, leaving the shortfall. Now, they're looking to the RocketHub.com funding website to collect the money.

      There are several donation categories. The lowest is $100, for which you get 2 $20 tickets--in other words, it's a $60 donation. "Pretty much, yeah, says Festival Creative Director Gary Izzo. "It's the capital we need now, to open, and once we open, things generally--you know--generally with, knock on wood, a decent season, things take care of themselves. But, it's a cash flow shortage at absolutely the wrong time."

      Rehearsals are already underway for the festival shows, and on this Monday they were accepting summer employment applications and giving orientation tours. Besides being a tourist draw, organizers point out the Festival is also an economic plus for the area.

      "I think one way or another we will open," says Izzo. "It's a question of how we open. If we don't open well, then that could be catastrophic, and that's where that last little bit comes in." Izzo says the $300-thousand is about the amount they'd make on a weekend day, but if they don't have it upfront, they need to cutback through the season. He says if they don't make it this year, there won't be a next year.

      Vendors from all over the country are already on the grounds, setting up. "We've all been here for so long that I can't imagine it won't open," Thea Hansen told us. She and Foster Holcombe have been coming from Maryland for 22 years to sell their custom vases and glassware. He points out that, as independent contractors, they bring a lot to the festival, including being a draw for their 45-hundred person mailing list.

      Renaissance Festival owner Doug Waterbury did not return our calls on Monday, but his spokesman told us that the financial issues in Sterling do not affect his other properties, including Santa's Workshop in the Adirondacks and the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park (which is apparently delaying its opening again).

      To see more on the Renaissance Festival funding appeal, check www.RocketHub.com and search 'Sterling'.