A new beginning by doing the same thing…
For the last time… (we hope)
The “thing” of course is moving locations. Despite the unprecedented hilarity of the subtitle of this article, Days of Knights is anything but in a rut. It has a palpable sense of standing on the cusp of rocketing off into a grand new future of prosperity. For those new to Days of Knights and its transient history, Days of Knights has always been in the same place(s). It had two homes in Kentucky it would bounce around from depending on the year. As a participant I did not find the varying location to be a difficult aspect of attendance, both sites were about the same distance to drive for me. Each site had individual issues one could gripe about here and there, it was a little buggy some years, a little warm some of the others, no access to water some of the time; but both places let you dig holes in the ground for fire. The concern for the organization, or so I have gleaned, was engagement in the community and repeat patronage.
The new site is in Charles Alley Nature Park, Lancaster, Ohio, and it is fantastic. The surrounding flora is a lush, verdant wooded country with pines and other trees I did not try to identify. It was chilly, but not cold, even late in October. Also, all the mosquitoes were dead; the most important aspect of all. It had enough room for everyone who participated, which was no insignificant feat considering, while I was not responsible for the headcount, it felt more populated by reenactors than last year. The participant registration form totaled almost 150. The turnout was diverse and covered an unprecedented period, from pre-medieval Rome to 17th-century Hussars and everything in between. I saw representations of Vikings; Landsknects; archers, knights, and men-at-arms representing centuries of European history; crusaders; Saxons; and footmen of every imaginable culture and century. The entire event, structured in a circle, allowed the visitors walking clockwise through the encampments to travel further back in time with the pre and post-medieval encampments as the bookends.
In the center of this circle of encampments was the demonstration field. Before breaking ground the map of the site had the demo field off on a separate section of the park adjacent to the timeline, but the decision to move it to the center of the “Wheel of Timelines” (TM pending) was a genius one. It made it accessible to everyone, no matter where on-site they were. Any attempt to corral all the spectators on-site in the disparate campsites and engrossed in their variety of conversations with individual presenters would have been a cat-herding level endeavor. Instead, the demonstrations announced themselves by the simple presence of the demonstrators. I experienced this phenomenon myself with my back turned to the demo field while in conversation with a visitor, I watched as their attention drifted from what I was saying as the spectacle of a 16-foot pike engrossed them. Like moths to a flame every time a marching roman, bearded Viking, or flamboyant Landsknect meandered toward the center of the ring and the crowd grew, it would draw the rest of them in. Personal goal: be a distraction and find a subject to demo next year.
Lancaster as a governing body, or their parks department, or whoever runs the Nature Park were as hospitable as we could have hoped for. Every conversation I was privy to in regards to park management was favorable and involved how enamored they were of us. They provided ample firewood, which was covered, keeping it dry despite the wet weather. They allowed digging in the grass and setting fires, and they let us drink the water! A parking lot accommodated the portable toilets and made room for us to park our cars providing a handy place to load and unload from, even when the cars were not driven down onto the grass. Long term parking was a short walk away, and it was where the cars were left during public hours to clear room for the visitors. A gut-truck style food shack stood right outside the campground, though I cannot attest to the quality of their food as they only accepted cash. Word of warning to those attending in subsequent years (and myself) bring cash for the convenient food. If the little food shack has not figured out how to use a Square by 2019 it would be reasonable to assume it will be a cash only establishment 2020. Near a highway, but off the highway by a parallel access road, noise from nearby vehicular traffic was low and did not detract from the medieval ambiance. This highway fed into Lancaster proper, no metropolis, but it was full of a variety of stores and restaurants, to include chains such as McDonald’s, to address anyone’s emergency need without driving for miles.
As for my individual experience, I wore my full harness for the first time. Still a colossal work-in-progress, thanks to the efforts of some close friends, I assembled it so I could wear it. Doing so has given me a litany of new projects, adjustments, and alterations to work on. I may write something about it, as a few full-body pictures were taken where I can point out problems I overlooked so you avoid my mistakes as you build your own. I fought in the list, too, so I am now no longer a complete novice. Only a mostly novice. I have little training in harness, though I try to do solo training whenever possible. Since, until Sunday, I did not have a functioning harness I was not in a position to practice with others in the equipment or the techniques requiring the equipment. Knowing this, I had a few personal goals while fighting: Score at least one point per bout, and avoid being knocked to the ground. I did not win any bouts, but I did not fall and I always scored at least a point (and was encouraged from the sidelines of two shots which had the structure and placement of counting blows but went unscored.) Keeping my feet, and performing with quality form and technique is a testament to my training and I would rather lose every round while displaying honorable conduct and sound technique than win anything.
The bulk of this review was about the new location, important information for people who could not attend, but intend to do so next year to know about. I would like to say the venue was immaterial to my enjoyment of the event. In comparison, last year, which I neglected to write about, the mosquitoes consumed me to the point my back looked like I was a plague victim. Despite this, the weekend was the highlight of the year. Going to Days of Knights has become my annual pilgrimage which resets my psyche. It is difficult to say any individual activity is “the best” of the year, as experiences compete on a variety of levels, but for context, to me, Days of Knights is superior to Christmas. I can ignore a substantial amount of frustrations and Frisbee golfers because of the community and companionship I experience on-site, and the thrill of watching a visitor engage in history and learn something new. Living history does so much more than teach facts, it is beyond words on a page. When children and adults put their hands on swords weighted and balanced to their period counterparts, their heads in a visor-down bascinet, and wander through medieval camp kitchens, a fundamental shift occurs in how they experience the world they live in now. Even if the effects of it drift immediately into their unconscious perceptions, they now possess a new and superior perspective on the origins of themselves, as humans. They receive a brief glimpse through the eyes of people from centuries ago, and can empathize more with the environment of people, like them, who’s lives and struggles were, in part, what lead up to where they are today; people who could have been them were they not beneficiaries of the random lottery of being born in a different time. I love giving such experiences to people. And I cannot resist developing an immediate kinship with those who also have a passion for passing on knowledge on a visceral level. People I see once a year at Days of Knights are fast and solid friends to a degree people I see working or in daily social life could not hope to become. Facebook helps some, but the rest of the year I miss them deeply. So when I say I am indifferent to the venue, I mean it does not matter to me where they congregate, I will be there with them. But this new site gives me hope there will be a permanent home to Days of Knights, and with a permanent home comes the security blanket of knowing this group of soul-brothers will not be disbanded due to circumstance of venue anytime soon.