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Fire On Renaissance Festival Grounds

Half-A-Dozen Buildings Damaged, 100 Firefighters Battle Blaze; Police Seeking A Suspect by Parker Hodges, Channel 4000 Staff Writer

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Shakopee, Minn. Updated 7:37 a.m. February 26, 1999 -- Police are on the hunt for a suspect or suspects they believe caused an overnight fire that destroyed dozens of buildings on the grounds of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, reports WCCO-Radio.

Firefighters first arrived at the scene around 3 a.m. Reinforcements were called quickly and more than 100 firefighters from seven communities ended up battling the blaze that was eventually quelled at 5:30 a.m.

No injuries were reported.

A witness called into WCCO-Radio's overnight host Al Malmberg about 30 minutes after the fire was reported and described the scene: "It was just engulfed in flames. There's a bunch of fire trucks out there from Jordan and Shakopee and way out even in Belle Plaine. It seems like every fire truck in the area is out there. And it is just flames out there," the unidentified man told Malmberg.

The fire was centered in an area that is home to food and craft booths. WCCO-TV reports that an entire row of the buildings that contain the hut-like booths were destroyed. And although it hasn't yet been determined exactly how the fire began, police are calling it suspicious, writes The Associated Press.

The grounds are home to the annual multi-weekend Renaissance Festival, an Olde English-themed outdoor festival with carnival acts, wares, food, events and wandering minstrels.

There is a caretaker who spends her non-working hours on the site, and she said a fire on the property is "her worst fear." "It's always a worry," said site caretaker Joanne Chase. "There are break ins on and off, because it's a big place. I have a real job during the day. I mean, you can't keep an eye 360 degrees every minute of the day, so this is always the scariest worry. Vandalism is vandalism, you don't like it, but there isn't always anything you can do about it.

"This is the really scary deal," she said. Chase told WCCO-TV that she heard nothing unusual overnight. In fact, she said it was the crackling sound of the fire that awoke her.

Fire officials say they had difficulty fighting the blaze because the isolation of the property required trucking in water.

Last updated on 03/24/99

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