Ring jousting is at the center of Fairplay Days

August 18, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

The District 12 Ruritan Club brings the centuries old tradition and sport of ring jousting to life this weekend at the Old Tilghmanton Woods.

One of Washington County's oldest existing jousting tournaments, Fairplay Days features competitors mostly from the quad-state area, trying to capture brass rings on jousting lances.

Ring jousting "is an incredible sport of equestrian sportsmanship," says Sandra Izer, secretary of the Ruritan Club.

The sport originated in Europe as a way for medieval knights to practice for jousting tournaments. Following a 16th-century ban after the jousting death of France's King Henry II, the ring-only version became a sport of its own.


In the mid-19th century, the sport re-emerged in the southern United States as a gentleman's sport, Izer says. Maryland, especially in the Washington County area, was home to multiple tournament grounds.

"Washington County and Frederick County have been big strongholds since the mid-1800s," Izer says. "There were plenty of tournaments that took place in this county."

Today, Fairplay Days is one of the few remaining jousting events in the area.

"It actually is a unique American sport," Izer says. "The Old (Tilghmanton) Woods are beautiful and shady. A lot of people come to watch and have chicken barbecue."

Spectators will see jousting riders compete in five classes both Saturday and Sunday: novice, amateur, semi-professional, professional and trophy class.

In each round, riders get three turns to hook three rings, with a possible score of nine. The rings vary in diameter depending on the skill level of the rider. The largest ring used is 1 3/4 inches in diameter and the smallest is 1/4 inch in diameter. That's about the size of the hole in a Lifesaver candy.

"There are plenty of riders out there who won't miss 1/4-inch rings," Izer says.

Fairplay Days will kick off Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. with a ring jousting clinic. Interested participants must bring their own horse and members of the Western Maryland Jousting Club will "teach you how to joust," Izer says.

The Ruritan Club will sell food items, including chicken barbecue, country ham, baked goods, hot dogs and ice cream. There also will be craft vendors.

Proceeds from the event help maintain the park grounds.

If you go ...

WHAT: Fairplay Days

WHEN: Noon to about 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 21.

WHERE: Old Tilghmanton Woods

COST: Free

DIRECTIONS: Take Md. 65 (Sharpsburg Pike) south and turn left onto Manor Church Road

MORE: For more information call the District 12 Ruritan Club at 301-528-1005. Spectators are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.

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