Family protests sexual assaults at Scarborough Faire
Editor's note: The story below, originally published April 27 about a protest that occurred outside of Scarborough Faire, mentioned the incorrect name of the assailant of the then-14-year-old daughter of Kelly and Gary Brignon. David James Ford took a plea deal in 2019. The story has been corrected below.
This past Saturday, Gary and Kelly Brignon took to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival to protest and bring awareness to the sexual assaults that have reportedly taken place in prior years.
In 2018, their then-14-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted while working at the festival, they said.
This was the second weekend the couple protested the festival with picket signs acknowledging the assaults.
"We are protesting the sexual assaults that have taken place out at Scarborough Faire, one of which was our daughter in 2018. Even though her assailant was prosecuted and convicted, he took a plea deal and he is a registered sex offender for life. We feel like Scarborough Faire does not take the appropriate measures to protect your women," Kelly shared. "You can be as young as 14 to work out here, and to the best of our knowledge, they do not perform background checks and they allow older workers to work around younger children. There's nothing in place to protect these kids from the older workers."
In 2018, the assailant, David James Ford, pleaded guilty on Nov. 6 to four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He accepted a plea deal offered by the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office.
Although their daughter's assailant was convicted, the pair said they are determined to share the information with the public and bring light to a dark situation.
The Brignons were present from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. As Kelly took one side of the Scarborough Faire gates with her friend and father, Gary took the far end by himself.
"Just trying to bring awareness of the girls that have been sexually assaulted and raped here at Scarborough Faire," Gary said. "Last week was good. We had a lot of thumbs up. About four to seven people stopped and asked questions, they couldn't believe it. They didn't know nothing about it. The sad thing is we need to bring light to the situation because nothing that we know of is being done and whether it's their hiring practices or ... something needs to be stopped."
According to public records from the Ellis County Sheriff's Department, five sexual assaults were reported from 2013-18 at Scarborough Faire.
Scarborough Renaissance Festival® issued this statement on the matter: "Scarborough Renaissance Festival® has a zero tolerance policy for any type of harassment or abuse. Scarborough Renaissance Festival® does everything in its power to ensure the safety of all of our employees, participants and patrons and to conduct the safest events possible. Scarborough Renaissance Festival® does not employ underage workers. Scarborough Renaissance Festival® does hire young people in accordance with the State of Texas’ employment laws and adheres to all guidelines regarding their work hours and supervision. If there is ever inappropriate or suspected unlawful behavior by any of our employees, participants, or patrons, we address such matters immediately and cooperate fully with local authorities to deal with them. In reference to the people who have been protesting outside the Festival the last several weeks, it is our understanding that the protesters are a family related to a matter in which a man was prosecuted in court with the full cooperation of Scarborough Renaissance Festival® and who we believe are now attempting to affect outstanding civil litigation with Scarborough Renaissance Festival’s insurance company with their protests. Scarborough Renaissance Festival® does not comment on any type of litigation."
The Brignons said they will continue to attend the festival every weekend, in protest, until the season ends. Kelly and her sister say they used to love the local festival, visiting every year before the incident occurred.
"This isn't the family-friendly event that it's advertised to be and why is it glossed over?" Kelly said. "We just feel like this event has gone on for a really long time and no one's asking questions and people are getting hurt out here and it's gone on too long. We just want to advocate for any of the girls, all of the girls, who have been hurt out here, who have been assaulted, including our daughter."
The couple said their daughter wants to be an instrument for change, and they want to help her do that.
"If there's other girls that have been sexually assaulted, hopefully, we can give them courage to step forward and report what they've been through as well," Kelly said.