Swords swung as members of the Thieves Guild performed in the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire’s final dress rehearsal. This weekend Alachua County Fairgrounds will set the stage once again to bring the medieval marketplace to Gainesville for its 30th year.
But while avoiding injury is a clear priority for performers, safety is also a concern for them as well as the faire’s guests.
“Considering that there was a rape last year, that would cause me greater concern,” said Susan Davis, medieval faire volunteer and avid faire-goer.
One year ago an Ohio man, Frank Krause, working for the vendor Nuthouse and Grill, was charged with attempting to sexually assault a 15-year-old girl. He is currently serving five years for his crime at Jackson Correctional Institution near Marianna, Florida. Efforts to contact Nuthouse and Grill were unsuccessful.
Linda Piper, events coordinator for the City of Gainesville, said the faire has upped its security measures as a result of the crime.
“We have ensured that it will not happen again,” said Piper. “We have added additional security, 24 hours throughout the site each and everyday while the vendors are here.”
Last year there was only one 24-hour private security guard in addition to the Gainesville police officers who monitor the area during the event. This year, the city has added three more.
The faire is expected to host 165 artisans this year. The city, however, is continuing to suggest background checks to businesses with employees working the faire, rather than require it.
“All of these people bring dozens and dozens of employees with them,” said Piper, “and it would have been a nearly impossible task to do.”
But faire-goer Davis, who has been bringing her family to the faire since 1997, said she’s concerned additional security guards might not be enough.
“You know even with 24-hour security, they have 24-hour security on campuses, and we do know that we have instances [of rape],” said Davis. “So honestly, that’s not going to prevent somebody that’s determined, I think.”
On Friday, Feb. 5, the faire will host a “School Day” for thousands of children from classrooms across the state to learn about medieval times for a reduced price. Piper said all the vendors are aware of last year’s incident and will ensure that families and their children are safe.
Although she does not feel the faire runs a high risk, Davis said she thinks background screening is something the city would want to start.
“I actually feel it’s going to be safe this year,” said Davis. “But once you have an event that happened, especially something that serious, you can’t take it back. So what we want to do is prevent it.”
When gates open Saturday, attendees can expect to see all the characters of Camelot swinging their swords and cracking their whips in King Arthur’s Kingdom – along with a few more knights guarding the castle.