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Jousting tradition anchors Fairplay Days

August 15, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

FAIRPLAY -- Clutching a lance, petite Chloe Bellerive sat atop Dizzy, her flea-bitten gray Arabian pony.

Chloe, 10, of Keedysville, stared down the length of the 80-yard dirt track before her. Three wooden arches went across the track at intervals of 20 and 30 feet. From each of the arches hung a small metal ring, dangling from a leather strap.

Chloe set her gaze on the rings, hoping to spear them with her lance.

Clad in pink breeches, she pressured the pony's girth and broke into a canter. As she sped down the track, her lance made contact with each of the rings, sending them flying into the air.

"She hit them all," an announcer cheered, as the crowd applauded her effort.

Chloe hadn't speared any of the rings on that turn. But spectators and fellow participants in the jousting tournament applauded her effort, acknowledging the skill and focus required for her performance.

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The Western Maryland Jousting Club hosted a tournament Saturday at Fairplay Days, an annual District 12 Ruritan event at Tilghmanton Woods Community Park off Sharpsburg Pike. More than 40 people competed in the event.

Jan and Lee Daniels, 60 and 65, of Hagerstown, watched the event from lawn chairs under the shade of the park's mature trees. The couple said they never had seen live jousting before.

"I love it. I love it," Lee Daniels said. "Just the beauty of the horses running down the track, and the agility of these people trying to get these teeny-weeny little rings."

Linda Enfield Minnick of Middletown, Md., is a member of the Western Maryland Jousting Club. Her father began jousting at age 15 and passed the tradition on to his children and grandchildren.

"I was raised this way," Minnick said. "We have four generations involved."

Minnick rattles off the history and technical aspects of jousting with ease, but said the sport sometimes boils down to a simple principles. For instance, she said her son, Craig Minnick, broke his glasses several weeks ago and was competing successfully without the benefit of full vision.

"The point is, if you are lined up with the first ring, don't move," she said with laugh.

Nancy Reeder, District 12 Ruritan president, said the jousting tournament anchors Fairplay Days. She said jousting events had been held in Tilghmanton Woods for many years. When the Ruritan purchased the woods in 1950s, the group committed to keeping jousting alive there.

"Jousting is the official state sport of Maryland and it had been going on in these woods for years and years," Reeder said. "Carrying on that history ties in well with our goals as a community service organization."

In addition to the jousting tournament, Fairplay Days features a silent auction, bingo, a classic car show and sales of home-cooked food. Reeder estimated about 300 people attended the event, which continues today.

Chloe Bellerive's father, Jean Bellerive, 41, said Chloe -- whom he affectionately refers to as "my little pip" -- loves anything that has to do with horses. But better yet, Jean Bellerive said, Fairplay Days appeals not only to Chloe, but to his whole family, which includes his wife and two sons. His son Devyn, 15, said he enjoyed checking out the vehicles in the classic car show, and everyone liked the food.

"It's spectacular," Jean Bellerive said. "They've got multiple things going on and there is something for the whole family."

If you go



What: Fairplay Days

When: Today, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Tilghmanton Woods Community Park District 12 Ruritan, 18309 Breathedsville Road, Fairplay

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