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Note that this assessment of the site was made in May of 1996. We have been told (May 1998) that the Estrella War has been moved to this site despite the evident problems with it.

Given these problems, and the recent decision of the Board of Directors of the SCA Inc., I quail at the problems that may ensue from this act.

You can read the Estrella XV FAQ here.
You can read another's opinion here.
And here is a page of very interesting photographs of some of the site's problems.
Showtime on the farm: Agritainment!


HRH of Atenveldt has asked me to post this to both the Aten mailing list and to the Rialto. PLEASE DO NOT COMMENT TO ME! Please direct your comments to TRH of Atenveldt, Eric and Nichelle, at

If you wish to copy your comments to TRM of Atenveldt and/or TH of the Sun, e-mail addresses for both are at the end of this message.


Ioseph of Locksley, OL, OPel, Baron, &c
Sendeth unto TRH of Atenveldt Eric and Nichelle

May I first say thank you for inviting my Lady Wife and I along with you today to view the proposed new site for Estrella War. It is refreshing to feel that our opinions are worthy of consideration.

As you know, I, and my Lady Wife, have Autocrated, sub-Autocrated and otherwise "worked the War" for many years. We are very experienced with the realities of "the War" from the inside. You have solicited our comments. Herewith are mine (my Lady Wife will comment separately):

I went to this site trying my best to keep an open mind. I am very much aware that there are problems with the Estrella Park site that we need to address.

I shall state my conclusions first, and then elaborate my reasoning:

I have decided strongly against this site. Estrella War *at this time* is not an appropriate event to hold there.

The camping area is very good, and I could like this site because of it (except for the standing water problem discussed below) but there are four problems with the site that I feel outweigh any other advantages it might have:

1) My primary objection is the Gravel Pit. This is an accident waiting to happen.

a) Every small child at the event will immediately gravitate to the pit to play. It is a child's "paradise." It is also full of unstable calieche/sand cliffs, ravines and gullys, broken glass, a line of tamarack trees that usually will hide all sorts of critters .... P-TOOEY! You could lose an active child in this area within five minutes.

b) For the same reason, this is an area that our drinking population would find extremely hazardous. Falling from a thirty foot height is not conducive to one's health.

c) Equally, a fighter in armour falling from one of these cliffs, given the nature of our armour, is, in my opinion looking at a possible broken neck.

d) Given the nature of the rocks and sand within this pit, the reflected heat on the fighters would be unbearable. The sand blast effect of a gust of wind is equally grim to contemplate. There is absolutely NO shade within this pit.

We were told that the Gravel Pit could be fenced off and gated with temporary fencing. This, to me, merely adds an extra expense (have the proponents of this site priced temporary fencing?) and offers the typical SCA child merely another easily solvable puzzle. The drunks will simply go over, thru or around it, of course.

I was told, when I asked about problems that may result from such accidents, that the site owners carried "more insurance than the SCA does." The letter from Mark Schnepf, owner of the site, to Cindy Nigrovic on 31 October 1995 says:

"...and name R & T Investments LLC as additional insured and indemnify R & T Investments LLC from any claims or loss in connection with the use of the premises."

This worries me.

2) The distance of this site from any trauma center or hospital.

Landing zones for helicopter evac at this site are, in my opinion and experience, problematical. This is also an EXPENSIVE proposition that is paid for by the person being evacuated. If they do not have medical insurance that would cover this, they are looking at a bill of around $5,000 for the evac alone.

In my opinion, adequate emergency services at this site must include a minimum of two ambulances with paramedics AT THE SITE. Otherwise, response time to the site becomes a problem in an emergency situation. I recall to your attention how many times we saw the paramedics during Estrella XI ......

3) The peach grove behind the stage area is a sexual assault waiting to happen. I say this from 8 years experience working law enforcement.

4) On the way out from the site, we noticed a sign by the side of the road. This sign said "Future site of the Atenveldt Fair." I feel that this is a good indication that the owners of the site do not understand our purposes, nor our wish to keep mundanes off-site. Given the site's nearness to the Arizona Renaissance Festival this causes me some concern.

This also raises the question of "What has the owner of the site been told?" Has someone implied that acceptance of the site is a "done deal?" This has certainly been the impression conveyed to the SCA and the Kingdom.

There are some other small objections that I have with the site, tho I must point out that these problems, for the most part, are much more easily solved that the four listed above:

1) There are water faucets available in the main camping area in front of the stage. This might seem an advantage, until you consider what will happen when someone does not turn them off after using them. We had this problem at Great Desert War(s) and at the early Estrella Wars, and I see no reason not to expect it again.

2) This is a working farm designed for irrigation. This means that these fields are designed, not to run the water off (as Estrella Park is) but to *hold the water in.* It rains in February in this area......and I do not relish the idea of camping in two to as much as nine inches of standing water that has no place to go.

In addition, this site is in the corridor that the north to south weather fronts follow. In my experience, this area gets much worse weather than the Estrella Park area.

3) February is the height of winter visitor season in this area. This area of the Valley gets quite a lot of them. Hotel/Motel space a reasonable distance off-site will be almost unavailable.

4) There are concrete lined irrigation ditches (roughly 44 inches across by about 18+ inches deep) on the edges of several of the fields. While the owner of the property has allegedly said that there will be no water in these ditches during War, they remain a serious hazard to children and intoxicated persons. If we get a halfway decent rain, of course, this hazard is multiplied.

5) I am concerned by the distance one must travel (off the freeway) thru 2 lane county roads that have *no facilities of any kind.* If a person were to suffer a breakdown of their car in this area, especially in the middle of the night, that person would be literally SOL when it came to getting help.

6) Travel time from the Estrella Park site to the proposed new site is somewhere on the order of one and a half hours *more*. This adds quite a burden on those coming from Artemesia, An Tir, Caid and the West. (It does not affect those from the Outlands who come in thru Phoenix, and shortens the travel time from Ansteorra and the southern parts of the Outlands.) Remember that this proposed site is on the *eastern border* of Maricopa County. (If some unknown reader who does not know the layout of the Phoenix area should be reading this, the Queen Creek area is just south of Apache Junction on the Arizona state map, on the border between Maricopa and Pinal counties. Estrella Park is on the south end of Goodyear, AZ, just west of Phoenix off I-10.)

7) The distance from the camping area to the Gravel Pit, while not terribly long to one not in armor, nor long to a rested fighter in armor, is quite a distance when tired and weighed down with armor. We were told that there would be a haywagon to take fighters back and can carry 25 fighters at a time. With 800 + fighters, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the problem here.

In addition, this haywagon is billed at $50 per hour. I point out that the same thing is available at Estrella for $250 *flat rate.*

8) The camping area is essentially surrounded by alfalfa fields. This is a common allergen, and would render the War impossible to quite a lot of people. Camping in an alfalfa field, mowed or unmowed, is impossible. Mowing alfalfa results in a bunch of little spikes ... bad for your tent, not to mention sleeping on it, and unmown alfalfa is essentially knee-high thick scrub.

9) The acoustics in the amphitheater/stage area are very good indeed. The problem is that the concrete portion of the seating area in front of the stage slopes downward towards the stage (as all good seating layouts should) and thus will collect pools of water directly in front of the stairs up to the dias. This had happened when we visited the site. Such a thing would not be very wonderful for the long dresses and such that our people tend to wear, should they be called up before the Crowns. Due to the fine layer of mud at the bottom of the pool that was there during our visit, I slipped while walking thru the puddle, even tho I was wearing "non-slip" soled shoes.

While we can tent over this area, I doubt that such tenting would keep the water out that well, and that adds yet another expense and renders use of the stage impossible. Seeing thru canvas is difficult.

10) At Estrella Park we have three certified law enforcement officers on-site during the weekend. I feel that we would need -at least- that many at the new site .... and remember that these officers would be completely unfamiliar with our sub-culture and attitudes.

11) I have been given to understand that this site actually straddles the Maricopa/Pinal county border. This changes and complicates the dynamics of the necessary licences, fees and so forth, and might prove to be so complex as to beggar description. Has this issue been adressed?

12) Walling in the various ramadas at Estrella Park is not as costly as renting whole tents of the needed size. There are no equivalent facilities at the proposed new site. This adds more expense.

13) The 50 acre field in front of the stage, while good for camping, is manifestly unsuited for SCA war combat due to the trees and water spigots in the area. Does this mean that *all* the fighting would be in the Gravel Pit?

14) The trees in and around the camping areas are pretty much young trees. There is little or no shade available.

There also seems to be some discrepancies in numbers in the published information about the two sites ....

We are told that Estrella Park has 80 acres, implying that this is all there is and all there ever will be. This does not count the Ball field, nor the area under development, nor the rest of the park, which actually totals 1100 acres. We use 80 acres in the central area of the park. There are *700* acres presently usable by us, with an additional 200 that could be grassed over within one year. That totals -980 acres- Estrella vs. -250- acres Schnepf.

In the years since Caid Invitational (the first War held at Estrella) I have watched this park steadily improve and become more suitable for our use. I see no reason to assume that it will not continue to do so, especially given the donations we make directly to the park earmarked for improvements to the park, and the sizable income we provide to Maricopa County by our use of the park.

We are told that the proposed new site has 250 acres, and it probably does, but the proposed contract only gives us 126 acres for our use, not counting the Gravel Pit nor the Peach Orchard, which are even less suitable for camping than the alfalfa fields.

(The problem of perceived/alleged crowding at Estrella Park might be solved by more control on the amount of space used by group camping. I looked around at Estrella XI and saw quite a lot of wasted space, both in the camping areas and on Merchants Row. Bear in mind that we could fit twice the amount of Merchants we had at Estrella X on the ball field, and thereby open up a VERY large area for camping -and- expand the fighting field. Putting the merchants on the ball field enables us to control security for them a lot better, AND would tend to channel any mundanes away from the camping area.

[nb: Post-Estrella-13: after we actually tried placing the merchants on the Ball field, it has been shown that this is a Bad Idea. Oh well. The Chief Ranger told me that -camping- on the ball field would be OK with him ...... so we still don't lose the space.]

With a bit of effort from the Hospitlars/Gold Key, we could put mundanes in easily identifiable tabards, thus eliminating the jarring effect of a person in mundane clothing wandering around our event. We should also make it VERY clear to the local paper that we are NOT an open-to-the- public RenFaire.)

We are told that management of Estrella Park changes every two years. This is a *County Park.* Rangers are rotated, but unless this park is transferred to another County, the rules and policies don't change. At least one of the Rangers has been there for the entire history of our involvement with the park. When I and/or my Lady Wife Autocratted the War at Estrella Park, we had little or no trouble interfacing with the Rangers. They have always been incredibly co-operative and sympathetic to those needs that she and I expressed to them, even to the point of bending the rules to our advantage. We had equestrian privleges for so long -because- they bent the rules. We lost this privlege because one of the SCA abused it.

Others may have had problems dealing with the Rangers, and I submit this might be more of a attitude problem on the part of some Society members rather than a problem due to the alleged "change in management."

We are told that Estrella has no RV hookups. In fact, it does, around the ball field, but given the economic situation of the majority of our membership I do not feel that this is a particularly important issue.

We are told that Estrella has no phones. One is available, and a solution to this problem is being investigated.

We are told that electricity is only available at "some" ramadas at Estrella Park, when it is in fact available at *all* the ramadas. Electricity is ONLY available at the proposed site around the amphitheater stage.

I would heartily recommend that we arrange to use the site for some Principality level events, to test the apparent problems at a controllable level and develop appropriate responses to them. It is entirely logical to expect that the owner of the site would be willing to do this "on spec" in the hopes of landing Estrella War at a future date. Those who are advocating this site need to -show us it can be done.-

Until we have actual "hands on" experience at this site, I do not feel that is would be wise for us to commit to holding the War at this site. Given developed and tested solutions to the problems presented by this site, however, it should be kept in mind for the future.

I remain:

Ioseph of Locksley, OL, OPel, Baron &c
formerly of the Kingdom of Atenveldt
(mka: W. J. Bethancourt III)

cc: TRM Brion and Anna
TH of the Sun

ADDENUM: 09/02/97

Recently, a major country music festival was held at this site. Due to the allergic reactions to the alfalfa fields, alcohol consumption and accidents, over 300 people had to be treated at the scene by paramedics. This was covered in the local news, both TV and newspapers, and gave the festival, and site, a major black eye locally.

NEWS FLASH! Information has been posted answering some of the questions posed in the above article. Since it is NOT signed or otherwise authenticated, we take no responsibility for it's accuracy, tho the person posting (Master Raibert) is known for his honesty.

This by no means answers all the questions, however, but in the interest of a fair hearing, we post it as recieved.

Note that much of the information here was not made available when the proposal to move was initially made.

FAQ begins:

From: Robert H. Duncan
Subject: [HordeNet] Estrella War XV FAQ's Very Long
Date: Tuesday, July 21, 1998 7:54 PM


The Schnepf Farms Festival Site is located at the intersection of Rittenhouse & Riggs Road in Queen Creek, Arizona. Queen Creek is approximately 38 miles Southeast of the metropolitan area.


Currently the festival site is 250 acres-plus the 50-acre broken field battle pit. During 1998 Schnepf Farms will add three additional fields to the site, increasing the acreage significantly. Estrella War XV will have exclusive use of this site.


The largest event held at the Schnepf Farms Festival Site is Country Thunder USA, a 5-day country music festival that drew 100,000 attendees in 1998. Country Thunder offers local and nationally known bands, rodeo activities and souvenirs, clothing, and food vendors. Country Thunder also offered 3,500 camping spaces during the 1998 festival. In addition to Country Thunder, the Festival Site has hosted the Arizona Cactus Pine Girl Scouts (3,000 attendees over 2.5 days), the Arizona Border Collie Association sheepdog trials, the International Radio Control Helicopter Association, and the Air-Bago Motorcoach Rally. Short-term camping and RV facilities are available when the site is not rented for a private event.


The Barony of Twin Moons has held several camping events on-site, including Defenders Tourneys, and Tavern Tourneys. In 1998 the 8th annual Baron's War will be held at Schnepf Farms in November.


110 electrical outlets are available around the main amphitheater areas. In addition, there are 27 full-service RV hook-ups available which offer 110 electricity, water, and sewage hook-ups. These RV spaces are available for rent by Estrella War attendees through the Schnepf Farms management. For more information, contact Maitresse Melisend de Chartres (Cindy Stoltz), the Estrella XV Co-Steward, at (602) 691-9048, or by e-mail at:


Town of Queen Creek water is available on-site at numerous taps and drinking fountains scattered around the main festival field. There are also "swim-suit" showers available at the North end of the main field.


The site restrictions at Schnepf Farms are essentially the same as at Estrella Mountain Park.

front gate.


The main festival field and other fields on-site are planted with bermuda grass-the same type found at Estrella Mountain Park. During February, bermuda is generally dormant and brown. There are several adjacent fields planted in alfalfa hay which, by contract with the site, will be harvested and watered down prior to the War. Schnepf Farms and the adjacent farms are organic and use absolutely no pesticides. Other farms in the area grow potatoes, peaches, apricots, and soybeans.


Just like at Estrella Mountain Park, the weather in February in Queen Creek is variable. It can be hot and dry, cold and wet, warm and wet, etc. No matter what, you can count on weather. As the War approaches, watch the Estrella Web Site for updated weather information.


Estrella War XV will feature an on-site produce stand, bottled water, ice and firewood. Pay phones will be available at the Northwest corner of the main festival field. Estrella War XV will once again offer shower trucks in addition to the "swim-suit" showers on site. Schnepf Farms also offers permanent handicapped-accessible shower and restroom facilities. This year, Estrella War XV will also offer an on-site UPS drop point for attendees and merchants.


In downtown Queen Creek you will find several ATM's, a Circle K with gas pumps, the Mission Market (offering speciality Hispanic products and fresh meat), the (very large and well-stocked) Discount Liquor Store, a True-Value Hardware Store, a Big A Auto Parts Store, Cruise's Auto Repair, Rudy's Mexican Restaurant, Jim's Restaurant (Burgers, etc.), a Laundromat, and a Pizza Parlor.


Fry's Food & Drug is located approximately 12 miles from Queen Creek at Power Road and Baseline.


Both Valley Lutheran Hospital and Chandler Regional Hospital (Type II Trauma Centers) are located approximately 18 miles from the Schnepf Farms Festival Site. There is a Rural Metro Fire Station approximately 5 miles from the Festival Site.


Sky Harbor International Airport is located approximately 38 miles Northwest of Queen Creek.


Superstition Springs Mall is located at the Superstition Freeway (US 60) and Power Road, approximately 14 miles from Schnepf Farms. Superstition Springs is a major mall featuring movie theaters, specialty stores, restaurants, and major department stores. Several Hotels/Motels are located within walking distance of Superstition Springs. In the immediate area you will also find Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Comp USA, Home Depot, and other mid-range department stores.


Tours of the site will be available on Saturday, August 15th, and Saturday, October 10th, 1998. These tours will be led by Maitresse Melisens de Chartres (Cindy Stoltz), War Co-Steward for Estrella War XV. If you would like to register for one of these tours, please contact Maitresse Melisend at (602) 691-9048, or by e-mail at


Yes, this year Estrella War XV will offer pre-registration. Pre-registration will allow you to enter the park at 8:00 a.m. on opening day, Wednesday, February 10, 1999, and will decrease your time in the Troll-Booth line. For more information contact the Pre-registration Steward, M'lady Giliana Spencer de Windemere (Jaime Heier) at (602) 614-0295, or by e-mail at


Estrella War XV is pleased to have Baroness Helen Jeanette of Fox Hall (Pam Foley) as our Merchant Steward. To request a merchant package, or for more information about merchanting at Estrella War XV, contact her at (602) 274-2282, or by e-mail in care of Lord Severian the Northumbrian (Brad Kinser) at


Once again, there will be assistance for our guests with special needs. For more information, contact the War Executive Assistant, Lady Brenna Mikala Sinay McGaha of Clan Mackay (Brenda Gant) at (602) 935-3457, or by e-mail at


All Estrella War XV Autocrat meetings are open to the public. The next scheduled meetings will be:

War Syewards will be available at other events to answer questions. Listen to Court announcements to see if a Steward will be present at any particular event. For more information about Autocrat meetings, contact the Estrella War XV Executive Assistant, Lady Brenna Mikala Sinay McGaha of Clan Mackay (Brenda Gant) at (602) 935-3457, or by e-mail at You may also contact the War Co-Stewards with specific questions or requests. Contact information: Maitresse Melisend de Chartres, OP, (Cindy Stoltz) at 4831 N. 79th Drive, Phoenix, Arizona 85033, (602) 691-9048; e-mail at; or Baron Elliott Gallowglass, OP, (Steve Echols), P>O> Box 832, Glendale, Arizona 85311, (602) 848-1886.


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