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Longtime Ren Fest employee accused of rape; others recount experiences with sexual assault, harassment

Star Tribune

Star Tribune

As the cannon sounds this weekend of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, scandal hangs in the air.

On June 12 Carr Hagerman, a longtime performer and manager at the festival, was charged by the Scott County attorney with raping a freelance photographer at last fall’s festival.

The criminal complaint states that Hagerman lured the victim into a building on site under the pretense of taking photos from a scenic location. According to the victim, things turned violent when he saw a pink ribbon on her wrist, which women were using as a #MeToo warning against sexual harassment from Hagerman and others at the festival.

According to the criminal complaint, he repeatedly beat and raped her while saying things like, "I will do whatever I want with you," and, "You are my piece of meat."

Mid-America Festivals, which runs Ren Fest, is expecting an annual attendance of 300,000 this year, making it the biggest of its type in the U.S. However, recent explosive accusations have led to unease from some of the staff, vendors, and patrons that we spoke to.

“The main reason I quit [the cast] was because of the way Carr was treating people,” says one woman, who didn’t want her name used, about her time working as part of the performing cast. (She is now employed at one of the on-site shops.)

As a former cast member, she experienced her share of creepiness from the director of the performing company. “He said quite a few inappropriate things to me through [Facebook] Messenger,” she says.

According to her, Hagerman would often ask young women in the company to model for him. “He has a lot of power and is a very charming person,” the former cast member states. “You don’t know you are getting manipulated when you work with him.”

Security at the festival has tightened in recent years, which the she believes is because of the sexual assaults. “It used to be pretty lax and chill. People could walk wherever they wanted after hours,” she says.

A few regular attendees we spoke to are also concerned about harassment at the fest in general and how that impacts ticket holders. While the festival is family-friendly, there’s plenty of adult-geared entertainment, including raunchy characters, bar crawls, and free wine and beer tasting sessions.

"I attended casually for many years, and was a pass holder for three years,” says Rachel Cleveland. “Casual sexual harassment is basically the entire environment at the fest. I’ve been groped several times, and no one bats an eye because everyone does it. Also people routinely smuggle in flasks of god knows what that gets casually handed around."

Mid-American Festival and Hagerman’s lawyers have declined to comment.