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Organizers of Riverhead Medieval Festival failed to obtain permits

The event featured jousting, snakes, archery and everything Middle Ages. But it lacked one critical component to operate: a special event permit.

The Riverhead Medieval Festival, a two-day event at the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp off Sound Avenue, was abruptly canceled for Sunday after town officials determined late Saturday that the organizers had failed to obtain the necessary permit. The missing permit stemmed from a mix-up between the 4-H Camp and the festival’s organizers, Medieval Scenarios and Recreations, according to the festival organizers.

The festival organizers announced Sunday morning that the event, which attracted an estimated 1,500 people on Saturday, had been canceled. The event was scheduled to run from noon to 5 p.m.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said Monday that the town police were called Saturday because of cars parking on Sound Avenue and the organizers were collecting the fees from attendees in their cars while still on Sound Avenue, creating a hazard. The town fire marshal arrived shortly afterward, he said, and the organizers from the 4-H camp agreed to cancel the event for Sunday after the town threatened to issue tickets.

“4-H did the right thing because if you don’t have the proper permits, you shouldn’t be running the event,” Mr. Walter said.

Ilana Mele, a spokeswoman for Medieval Scenarios and Recreations, told the News-Review it was “an issue of crossed wires of epic proportion,” and added that it was a “major and embarrassing error.”

Medieval Scenarios and Recreations has been running festivals on Long Island since the early ’80s, she said, and the site typically handles permits. A representative for the organization filled out the application for the assembly permit and submitted it to the 4-H Camp, said Ms. Mele, who was not at the site this weekend. The 4-H Camp, which has hosted numerous large-scale events in the past, accepted the application under the assumption it had been approved, Ms. Mele said.

“Each party was under the impression that the other had submitted it,” she said.

The attendance on Saturday exceeded expectations, Ms. Mele said. In the past, first-year events have typically drawn a couple hundred visitors, especially on the first day, she said.

“So when the admission numbers climbed past 1,000, we ran into an issue of preparedness,” she said. “A food vendor had canceled last minute, which was a huge blow, our gate volunteers working double time to accommodate everything, and a lack of traffic control on Sound Avenue which was due to the permits not being filed properly.”

Ms. Mele alerted media outlets Sunday and posted a message on Facebook notifying people of the cancelation. At the time, she only had preliminary information that the town had shut down the event. After learning more details, she acknowledged the organization’s error.

A representative from the 4-H Camp could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Garretson