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Riders joust at Fairplay tournament

August 18, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

FAIRPLAY - Spearing a 1-inch ring with a 6-foot, 9-inch lance atop a horse galloping 25 mph may seem fantastic.

Try spearing a Lifesavers candy.

Ken Enfield, who won the pro division of the Fairplay Ruritan jousting contest Sunday afternoon, said he often practices with Lifesavers. Maneuvering the point through the tiny hole is hard enough, he said, but the real trick is remaining deft enough not to break the candy as the pieces stack up.

"The biggest thing in jousting, after you have the skills, is building the power of concentration. That's where I'm a little bit lacking," said Enfield, president of the Western Maryland Jousting club.

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Despite the name of his category, Enfield, 38, said there is no pot of gold at the end of the day. On Saturday, for instance, 16 competitors in four skill categories divided $368 in prize money.

"I just won first place, and if I get $40, that will be a good day," he said.

Enfield, who lives in Middletown, Md., said he won the national competition in 1994. Riding since he was 9, Enfield comes from an impressive line of jousters - his father was a four-time national champion and an eight-time Maryland champ.

But jousting is first and foremost a hobby, Enfield said.

"My dad told us to ride to have fun, not because you feel you have to," he said.

When Enfield's father won the first national championship in 1968, he said there were 12 tournaments a year in Maryland. Today there are more than 50, he said.

"So it's grown by leaps and bounds," Enfield said.

And organizers count the annual Fairplay tournament among the largest.

Sandy Izer, this year's tournament chairwoman, said about 70 riders from three states competed over the weekend. She said the Old Tilghmanton Tournament Grounds have been the sight of various jousting events for nearly 100 years.

"This is one of the nicest tournaments in terms of riders we've ever had," she said.

Competitors must make it down a course in less than nine seconds and try to spear three rings that hang from ropes spaced apart. Riders compete in skill categories ranging from novice to pro.

The winners of Sunday's skill categories show that there are several different paths to success. Wendy Campbell, 14, of Amherst, Va., who won the novice category, said she has been riding since she was 6.

In contrast, Frederick, Md., resident JoAnn Lawson, 35, who won the amateur division, said she only began riding horses four years ago.

"I started riding one week and jousting the next week," she said.

The winner of the semipro class was George Christian of Buckingham County, Va.

While the crowds at jousting tournaments do not exactly resemble Orioles games, the fervor with which some follow the sport does. Mort and Betty Lou Churchill, of Ranson, W.Va., said they regularly attend competitions and closely follow the competitors. Betty Lou even keeps score like a baseball fan.

"It's more fun when you keep score. Otherwise, it's just a parade of horses," she said.

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