Some residents of the community around the Renaissance Festival property became even more upset Thursday over the intrusion of the first ever Middlelands Festival on their lives earlier this month when the event’s producers canceled a scheduled meeting with little notice. The Middlelands Festival, held May 5 through 7, was a three-day concert camping experience that was expected to attract a crowd of 25,000, but instead exploded to upwards of 66,000 attendees. Local law enforcement was overwhelmed with noise complaints and other issues related to the event.
The outcry from the community was tremendous, both during and after the event. As a result, event producers agreed to a town hall style meeting for Thursday, where they would listen to the concerns of area residents, as would representatives of the Texas Renaissance Festival. Unfortunately, Middlelands Festival producers canceled on Thursday when it was too late to inform many of those who planned to attend the meeting.
Texas Renaissance Festival Marketing Director and Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce Board Member Travis Bryant said “due to some last minute changes, the Middlelands people couldn’t be (at the meeting),” but didn’t elaborate on why event producers didn’t appear.
Bryant said organizers felt it would be better to reschedule the meeting so the Middlelands producers could hear directly from the community, and not receive the information “second hand.” He said they attempted to contact as many people as possible to inform them of the cancellation, but only had contact information for those who provided it when they signed up to speak.
“Obviously a lot of people didn’t get the message, but we wanted to be here and let them talk, hear them and then decide what the next best step is,” Bryant said. “We feel like a lot of these concern need to be addressed for this event to move forward.”
While the Renaissance Festival has “grown with the community”, he said, there’s a major difference between the sound level of a recreated 16th century village versus an electronic dance music festival featuring five stages.
“It was a concert, and concerts can be a little bit loud,” Bryant said.
It was also a camping event, with most attendees staying for all three days, though some people only went for a single day.
Bryant spoke with some of the people who either didn’t get the message regarding the cancellation or showed up for the meeting anyway. He said there were several issues he gleaned from what they said, including not just the noise – particularly the bass, but also how late the concert went. He said there were also concerns about how many arrests occurred around the event, most of them drug related. Additionally, Bryant said because the venue is in such a rural area, there is no easy way to inform everyone who might be affected, so many of those inconvenienced had no idea it was coming.
Cheryl Bowen lives on Clark road, which dead ends into the festival grounds, and she was one of those contacted about the meeting’s cancellation, but she went anyway.
She said the noise was the biggest issue and they could hear nothing but the bass, and it was so loud many of the area’s children couldn’t sleep. Those in public school needed their sleep more than usual on the final night of the event, she said, as they had STAR testing the next morning.
“The music was going until 4 a.m., and (Bowen’s daughter) didn’t get to sleep,” Bowen said.
“I’m all for the community making money,” she said. “It might make Magnolia money and it might make Todd Mission money, but it doesn’t really make Plantersville money – The guy who owns the Renaissance Festival doesn’t invest in our community, and he doesn’t really invest in Todd Mission.”
“He might give jobs, but at the same time, we’re the ones who have to deal with it,” she said. “We have to deal with all the loud music – We’re the ones who have to leave.”
Bowen said she was contacted about the cancellation around 3 p.m. but felt other arrangements could have been made to facilitate Middlelands event producers’ hearing the community’s concerns even if they weren’t physically present.
There was no word Thursday on when another meeting might be scheduled.