Renaissance Festival continues, but spat with Harveysburg village flares up

Festival filed legal action to detach property from tiny village; voters will decide in November whether to completely dissolve village

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Starting Saturday Sept. 2, the Ohio Renaissance Festival will open its gates for nine weekends as people visit Warren County to step back in time to the 16th century to enjoy music, food, entertainment and skilled artisans.

The annual festival has been a source of controversy for months as the village of Harveysburg is poised to enact an admissions tax by as much as $2 each to raise additional revenue for the cash-strapped rural village. Village officials are also developing other revenue enhancement opportunities with strict interpretation of building permit fees, particularly pertaining to erecting large tents.

Ordinances to enact the admissions tax as well as an update to village building permit fees are pending before Harveysburg Village Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the Village Hall. Mayor Dick Verga said he had not seen the agenda as of Thursday but said those ordinances could be considered.

Village Law Director Chase Kirby could not be reached for comment about the agenda or pending legislation.

David Ashcraft, managing partner of Brimstone & Fire LLC, the festival’s ownership team, has filed a legal action to detach its property out of the village corporation limits and return to Massie Twp., which David Ashcraft believes “is a much better fit for the festival.”

He said the festival has an economic impact to the region of about $5 million from the 200,000 visitors that attend each year. Ashcraft said about 700 to 750 people work at the fall festival over the nine weekends, many from Harveysburg. The festival attracts many self-employed craftsmen, merchants and artisans.

“Council has created a lot of resentment with these 220 small business owners who come to the festival,” Ashcraft said. “They (council) don’t realize the number of residents who work here.”

The legal action to detach the festival property from Harveysburg remains pending in Warren County Common Pleas Court with a two-day bench trial scheduled for May 2024. However, the court has required the village and the festival to enter mediation to try to resolve the issues.

In November’s election, Harveysburg residents will decide contested races for two village council seats and for mayor. They also will decide the fate of a five-year, 2.5-mill police levy renewal; a five-year, 3-mill operating expenses renewal levy; and a vote to surrender the village’s corporate powers and dissolve.

Harveysburg has a population of 600 residents that includes 398 registered voters, according to Verga.

Resident Mike Hatfield said more than 100 registered voters signed the petition to dissolve the village.

“It took three weeks and no one refused to sign it,” he said. “I needed 28 signatures and collected 108. I feel we’d be better off with the township.”

Ashcraft said he supports the movement to dissolve the village, adding “I think the best thing is for the citizens to dissolve the village. If we felt they were being good stewards of the community, we wouldn’t be here (in this situation). We get zero services for payments rendered.”

The Warren County Board of Elections has already certified the mayoral and council candidates and the issues for the Nov. 7 general election ballot. A protest has been filed against Verga, who is a candidate for a council seat. The Board of Elections will hear that protest on Sept. 5. Verga, 85, whose home burned down and is being rebuilt, has been staying in an assisted living center outside the village limits.

The village has the authority to impose up to a 1% income tax without a public vote but has chosen not to impose an income tax on its residents. Other than the festival’s payment to the village, Harveysburg relies on traffic fines through its Mayor’s Court and property taxes for revenues.

Harveysburg also had a 25-year agreement signed in the 1990s by former Renaissance Festival owner Peter Carroll, creating a direct payment of $20,000 that would increase by $1,000 a year in lieu of a ticket tax. Verga said the community development assessment payment is now at $44,000 a year. Ashcraft said the agreement expired Dec. 31, 2022 and also enabled the festival to obtain water service via annexation.

For more information on the Renaissance festival, visit

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