Plans revived for former Renaissance Faire grounds

Sep. 2—CHIPPEWA FALLS — Plans are underway to shake up the former Chippewa Valley Renaissance Faire grounds in the southwest corner of Chippewa Falls.

Bloomer-based A-1 Properties LLC owns the 121-acre site, which is now known as the Eagle Ridge Festival and Campgrounds. Bill Proud, an agent of A-1 Properties, told the Chippewa Falls City Council that his group is looking at opening up the site for a variety of uses, from car shows and craft fairs and flea markets to an outdoor movie drive-in.

The City Council approved both a special use permit and a developer's agreement with A-1 Properties, said City Clerk Bridget Givens.

The group also is looking at acquiring a beer and wine license for the grounds, and also is considering opening a restaurant there.

Mayor Greg Hoffman was energized about the proposals he's seen from A-1 Properties.

"I'm excited. I appreciate the fact they have the organization and the financing in place," Hoffman said. "I think they have good ideas. I think it's great they are stepping up."

Since the faire shuttered nearly a decade ago, the property has been predominantly used as a campground. There are now 66 seasonal campers that use the grounds.

The former Renaissance Faire was held at 2302 Nelson Road, on the west side of U.S. 53, in city limits on the south side of the Chippewa River. The site is adjacent to a former city landfill, so there are limitations on developing the grounds. Another reason the area isn't ideal for housing is the city doesn't have sewer lines to that part of the city.

The city of Chippewa Falls sold the land for $1,000 an acre in 2005, and the following year the Wisconsin Renaissance Faire began. Dozens of buildings and stages were constructed on the site to create the 16th century artisan village, featuring jousting, stage acts, medieval food and arts and crafts. The fair operated over several summer weekends for three years before coming to a halt after the 2008 attendance dropped nearly 30% from 2007 levels, and the fair operators owed more than $800,000, according to Chippewa County Court records.

The current owners, including Terry Pecha of rural Bloomer, then bought the fairground at a sheriff's sale in July 2009 for $900,000. No fair was held in 2009, but the current group operated the festival, now dubbed the Chippewa Valley Renaissance Fair, in 2010 and 2011, along with the Festival of Terror, who occurred in October. However, they announced in spring 2012 they would not be moving forward with a sixth season. The fair had been open on weekends in late May and June.

The city retains a right of first refusal if the property were to be placed on the market, Hoffman added.