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Jousting at Fairplay Days this weekend

August 12, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Fourteen-year-old Bradley Enfield is the third generation of his family to compete at Fairplay Days' jousting tournament.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

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    FAIRPLAY -- Before proceeding down the 80-yard jousting path, Bob Enfield assumed a position similar to that of a jockey.

    Pinched between his ribs and the meat of his right arm was a lance longer than most adults are tall. Its blood-orange tip pierced the air as he and his horse, Jill, barreled toward the first of three, quarter-inch rings that hung from beams like miniature nooses.

    Hints of a thunderstorm threatened to end this round of nightly jousting drills at the family's Keedysville farm. Enfield's wife, daughter and son stood in the field watching and bracing for rain.

    All this was in preparation for an upcoming tournament at Fairplay Days, Saturday, Aug. 14, and Sunday, Aug. 15, at Old Tilghmanton Tournament Woods. Enfield is in charge of the tournament and plans to complete.

    "You know you're having a good day if you can pluck all three," Enfield had said, just before the ride.

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Despite the occasional bursts of lightning, Enfield's eyes were focused on the tiny rings -- the smallest a jouster encounters in competition. His upper body was as still as a statue on the galloping horse.

Then, in the time needed to enjoy two and a half deep breaths, Enfield plucked all three rings.

On Saturday and Sunday, riders like Enfield will head to the woods of Fairplay to compete in the sport of their fathers: jousting. Enfield is a second-generation jouster. His father, Leon Enfield, 77, is president of Western Maryland Jousting Club.

The jousting club organizes jousting tournaments as part of Fairplay Days, a fundraiser for the District 12 Ruritan. The national service club plans to use the money raised from the event to maintain the wooded park, said Greg Culler, an event organizer.

Culler said the event fetches 2,000 attendees over the course of two days.

During the Fairplay tournament, a rider will have nine seconds to lance a set of three dangling rings while steering a galloping horse, whose speed can rival that of cars on residential roads.

The jouster with the most rings wins. Experienced riders can spear rings about the size of Lifesaver candies -- the size Enfield had plucked during practice.

Former jouster Sandy Izer, the club's unofficial historian, has records on local jousting matches dating from the 19th century.

While the sport has roots in medieval Europe, Izer said the version most widely practiced today has its origins in 19th-century United States, an extension of the idea of Southern chivalry.

Jousting has been Maryland's official state sport since 1962.

And in the modern era, jousting is an equal-opportunity sport. Women compete against men. The old take on the young. Kids compete against their parents.

Enfield's daughter Marley, 12, and son Bradley, 14, have competed against adults. They've both speared rings that their older competitors couldn't.

"It's really not as hard as it looks," Bradley Enfield said. "People think that they need hula-hoop size rings but it's really not that hard."

The Enfield kids compete on a palomino named She's a Genuine Blonde. They call her "Jen" for short.

There are no rules for what kind of lance you can use. According to the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association, there is no known place to buy a lance.

Marley rides with a lance made from a broom handle. She's has been jousting since she was 2. She recalled her mother holding on to one of her legs and her father holding on to the other as Marley guided the horse and aimed for the rings.

She's been competing ever since.

"It's fun because you get a break from big teams," Marley said. "It's just you and your horse."




If you go ...



WHAT: Fairplay Days

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, and Sunday, Aug. 15. Jousting tournaments are scheduled for both days. There will also be a car show and silent auction.

WHERE: Old Tilghmanton Tournament Woods, Fairplay. Take Sharpsburg Pike south to Manor Church Road.

COST: Free admission and parking. Food prices range from $1 to $6.50.

MORE: Fairplay Days is a fundraiser for the District 12 Ruritan. Call 301-582-1005.

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