News: 2002-01-24-American_Canyon

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T: Renaissance Faire to leave Solano County -- Event's future still uncertain
A: Ian Thompson
D: January 25, 2002

FAIRFIELD -- If there is going to be a Renaissance Pleasure Faire this year, it won't be in Solano County.

Time-consuming complications between the Renaissance Entertainment Corp. and state and federal environmental agencies doomed the move to the fair's proposed American Canyon site.

"They withdrew their application for use permits last week," said Michael Yankovich of the Solano County Department of Environmental Management. Fair owners planned to improve and move into a U-shaped valley located just north of Interstate 80 just west of where American Canyon Road meets I-80. Just where the fair will be and whether there will be a fair at all this fall in Northern California is up in the air. Fair officials also haven't made any move to get permits for any other sites in the county Yankovich added. None of the corporation officials were available for comment because they were closeted in the first of three days of meetings, according to the company receptionist. In October 2001, company officials said they were evaluating several sites within Solano County, but declined to say where. Spokeswoman Shannon Wood-Damnavits said then the company planned to make an announcement in mid-November about the fair's future permanent home, but that announcement failed to materialize.

Vendors who work the fair circuit expressed concern about this development because fair officials promised to get them contracts for the 2003 Northern California fair by January. The fair found the American Canyon site last year while it was still operated at its three-year-old interim location at the former Nut Tree restaurant. "They very much liked the site and the county," Vallejo attorney Al Lavezzo said.

Lavezzo represented the American Canyon site's landowner who wanted to locate the fair there and got Solano County supervisors' approval to amend land use codes to allow the fair in as a seasonal use. The landowner was also working with the Open Space Foundation to develop trailheads and a conservation easement over the property if it was used for the fair. Things started going wrong when it came to working out environmental issues with the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It would take too long to mitigate the fair's impacts and still open in time for the 2002 Northern California fair season which traditionally starts in September. "It was our understanding that the project became too difficult, that the approval process was to be too lengthy and difficult," Lavezzo said. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire called the Blackpoint Forest near Novato home for two decades until it had to move to make way for a golf course and housing.

Fair officials initially tried to move the fair to sites that included Sunol and Lagoon Valley, but opposition killed those plans. Vacaville with an empty Nut Tree on its hands, welcomed the fair there on a year-by-year basis for three years with the last season ending in October 2001. During that time, the fair tried to get a site near Antioch, but that fell through, too.

Ian Thompson can be reached at