Kennewick business owner rallies community to save iconic event

Efforts are underway to save an event that’s been held annually in the Tri-Cities for over 30 years.

Earlier this week, organizers of Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire announced on Facebook they would be cancelling their upcoming event due to “irreconcilable” issues with the City of Kennewick.

Under this year’s insurance policy, if the event gets cancelled because of extreme weather, organizers will receive no refund which means they could take a $30,000 hit – something they can’t afford.

As a die-hard, born and raised Kennewick resident, when Steve Lee heard the news he decided he needed to step in to save a community staple.

“The first thing my father literally said to me out of the womb was, ‘Can you say Kennewick?’” said Lee, who currently serves on the Kennewick City Council and owns local business Green2Go. “This is my town.”

Now as an adult, Lee said he’s always trying to make Kennewick the community he wished it was when he was growing up and seeing his friends eventually leave for bigger cities.

“It’s so vital to have a place where the unique ones can express themselves,” he said. “And in a town where everyone’s number one complaint is that there’s nothing to do here, it just breaks my heart every time something that’s a cherished, iconic, Tri-Cities tradition goes by the wayside.”

Earlier this week, Lee posted a GoFundMe asking the community, specifically other local business owners, to step in and help save the faire. As of Friday afternoon, it had already raised close to $3,000.

The goal is to raise $40,000 to serve as a cash reserve if the event does get cancelled. Lee said if it doesn’t get called off, that money can be saved for following years, ensuring that the event never has to be cancelled for financial reasons.

“This event has been going on for almost my whole life,” he said. “This is the time where we can pull together as a community and fix something.”

Though he has attended the event before, to him the faire is also just one example of the unique entertainment that the Tri-Cities community offers.

“You don’t have to be a renaissance faire enthusiast, you don’t have to own a suit of armor, you don’t have to have a corset in your closet,” said Lee. “But if you respect that people that are different than you need cool stuff to do in this town, now is the time, throw 20 or 50 bucks on the GoFundMe.”

Other businesses are stepping in to help as well. On Saturday, Feb. 8, Hot Mess Burgers & Fries is partnering with Red Mountain Kitchen to hold a fundraising event.

Next week, Lee also plans to meet with the event organizers and representatives from the City, hoping to discuss other possible solutions as well.

“It seems so crazy that because of insurance and lack of a way to be creative about problem-solving that it wouldn’t make it to a 34th year.”