Party like it's 1599
Union — Anyone familiar with the Society of Creative Anachronism knows that this time of year is when thousands converge on a Pennsylvania campground for the annual Pennsic Wars, the biggest SCA gathering on the East coast. Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, Aug. 5 through 7, the Midcoast SCA contingent will hold the first of what it hopes will be a yearly alternative both more affordable and closer to home.
Orchard Wars III is what the Shire of Hadrian's Keep, the state's newest SCA branch, is calling its event at the Union Fairgrounds off Route 17. While the public may check out the doings anytime after the encampment begins, Saturday from 9 a.m. on is when the old-school activities will be in full swing … old school being historic recreation of life between 600 and 1600 A.D.
Shire of Hadrian's Keep comprises Knox County, parts of Lincoln County, Lincolnville and Islesboro; once you get to Belfast, you are in the Shire of Endewearde. Hadrian's Keep was formed in 2007 from the former Midcoast Medieval Society, whose former King Nathan (Benner) is the current Seneschal Nathaniel Lysander. The orchard being defended in Orchard Wars III is actually that of Benner's late father in Waldoboro; the "defense" in Union is actually demonstrations of battle and other skills rather than the kind of re-enactments going on at Pennsic.
Combat categories include Heavy List, the knights in armor with shields, swords and daggers kind of thing; archery; fencing with foils; and the intriguing thrown weapons. While there are places people can buy these weapons and armor, SCA is very much a DYI culture.
"Everyone's a walking advertisement for duct tape," said Foner Curtis of Rockland, the branch's Chatelaine Foner of Maplecroft.
As exciting as the prospect of medieval combat is, Curtis is quick to say that safety is paramount at SCA events. All combat interactions are supervised by Earl Marshals, responsible for martial activities. And the swords are made of rattan covered, yes, by duct tape. If they sign a liability waiver, people can try some of the skills out during Saturday's demos … and if they like it, they might consider joining the Hadrian's Keep ranks.
"We hold regular adult and youth practices at Union Elementary School," said Curtis.
It's not all swordplay. The not-for-profit SCA is an educational organization dedicated to the hands-on study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras. Members, who number more than 50,000 worldwide, learn about these eras via research, wearing the clothing and actually doing the activities, crafts, arts and sciences practiced between 600 and 1600 A.D. A "war" gathering may include classes on cooking and brewing, metal-. wood- and leatherworking, calligraphy, music and more. Feasts and balls will not be a part of Orchard Wars III but look for them in future events.
"Our dance master is at Pennsic this year," said Curtis.
Since victualing will not be practiced in Union this year, attendees are welcome to bring picnic baskets and non-alcoholic beverages. Curtis describes SCA gatherings as family-friendly outdoor events, and there will be lots for all ages to enjoy including bocce, hoop rolling games, horseshoe pitching and even watermelon seed spitting. There also will be a few vendors.
"We currently have members from 12 to 70s," he said.
Visitors to Orchard Wars will be required to participate in one activity and that is to dress in period garb. People are encouraged to put together and wear their own costumes, and there will be a big box to borrow from at the gate, Curtis said.
Admission will be $15 for adults, $5 for children age 6 to 17 and free for those younger; there is a $5 discount for SCA members. Those admitted will be given a token good for the whole weekend, so while Saturday is the day Orchard Wars III is in full swing, Friday afternoon and evening are a good time to chat with SCA members about their passion for history and for this particular way of exploring it.
"Families enjoy this because it really is a lot of camping and doing things outdoors," said Curtis.
The Shire of Hadrian's Keep has big ambitions for its August Orchard Wars; one of the reasons the branch grabbed the open weekend at Union Fairgrounds is because of its equestrian options. There is potable water on the grounds and room for participants to rough camp, also important. And there are flush toilets — one can embrace history only so far.
For more information about the Society of Creative Anachronism, visit, sca.org. The Shire of Hadrian's Keep website is hadrianskeep.webs.com.
VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to email@example.com.