Family fun in a medieval mode

June 05, 2009|By CHRIS COPLEY

Slashing swords, chain-mail armor, flowing gowns, pageantry, gold crowns - these scenes will greet spectators to Saturday's Highland River Melees, a series of battles set by the creek that wanders through City Park in Hagerstown.

The event features armored combatants who belong to the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a national organization promoting the history and culture of the Middle Ages.

Spectators are welcome to the event, which takes place all day Saturday.

It's easy to be captivated by the flash and crash of battle. But for longtime SCA member Eric Knibb, the group is about more than fighting.

"In itself, going out and hitting people with swords, it's a lot of fun," said Knibb, a Williamsport resident. "But the primary focus of the SCA is to re-create the positive aspects of the Middle Ages."


Chivalry, for one thing. Knibb said if a combatant loses a weapon during battle, their opponent allows them to pick it up before continuing. Courtesy is one aspect of medieval culture.

SCA members also re-create medieval foods, music, costumes, children's toys, tents, and more.

Knibb makes chain mail.

Under his adopted medieval Scottish persona, Fergus, Knibb makes shirts, armor and other chain-mail items and sells them to other SCA members or to the public. His product line includes pouches, shirts, jewelry, chandeliers and, um, bikini tops.

"Bikini tops are not medieval whatsoever," Knibb said, with a laugh. "I make them because people buy them."

Knibb has been making chain mail for 20 years. He met and married his wife, Glynis, through the group. And though he has no children of his own, he knows other families who are involved.

"In some families, the parents are into it and the kids think it's a little weird. Once the kids find something they like, they jump in with both feet," he said. "Other families, the kids grow up in the SCA. They have kids who (also) grow up in the SCA. It's a wonderful social network."

Knibb said the time period covered by the SCA is about 1,000 years - A.D. 500 to 1500 - from around the fall of the Roman Empire to Columbus's first voyage to the Americas.

Members don't simply learn about history. They learn about the ordinary things of everyday medieval life - food, clothing, toys, weapons, livelihoods - and incorporate these into their family's medieval personas.

"I've seen that being in the SCA improves the quality of life for people," Knibb said. "They find things they want to do for fun - cooking, music, sewing, metalwork. A whole variety of different things."

For Knibb, the SCA is not about living in the past. It's about enjoying life today.

"I never feel like I'm not part of the modern world," he said. "We work on computers, we drive automobiles and, when we get sick, we go to the doctor's office. But I find that being in the SCA has enriched my life. I have a focus for my free time, which a lot of people don't have."

If you go ...

WHAT: Highland River Melees, a medieval-themed festival for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 6

WHERE: Hager House, City Park, Hagerstown

COST: Free to spectators

CONTACT: Call Hager House at 301-739-8393

MORE: Battles involving rapiers, heavy weapons and archery take place in several locations throughout the day near Hager House. Limited food and beverages available.

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