March 21, 2018
Mid-South Renaissance Faire
The third annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire was held on two consecutive weekends August 19-20 and August 26-27, 2017. This year’s fair was relocated from Shelby Farms to the USA Stadium and rodeo arena in Millington, TN. This event is like a fun costume party where folks dress up in costumes and wigs, playing the part of lords and ladies, sailors and pirates, as well a fictional creatures like elves.
The setting is the English shire of Shelby during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. An actress, portraying the Queen, attended by her ladies in waiting and guards, was on the grounds walking amongst her subjects and holding court.
There were venders of food and drink, costumes, jewelry and art, swords and armor, and musical instruments. Children and adults could participate in an archery challenge, rope ladder climbing, horse shoes, tug of war, pickle smashing, bean bags, skittles, and the fun of throwing fruit at someone locked in the stocks. There were demonstrations of archery, metal forging, and sword fighting by knights in full armor. Two stages provided entertainment. One had shows and contests; the other, live music by various performers who kept the crowd entertained singing and dancing to authentic ballads of the 16th century.
Full combat jousting on horseback was performed three times a day by Roundtable Productions of Lancaster County, PA. This company is owned by Rob Earhart and Kate Hopkins and has been in business since 2001. Kate and Rob actually met at a Renaissance Faire. She makes her own costumes and he makes some of his weapons. Also in the production for both weekends was Krystal Dorsey who was playing the part of Sir Kaladry of Staunton, mounted on Eddie, a 16-hand rescued horse of unknown breeding. Rob played the part of Sir Orik of Swabia mounted on Fredrick the Great (aka, Freddie.) Kate was the emcee for this show, and Rob and Krystal were the combatants.
Freddie is a 23-year-old, 16-hand part draft horse whose first career was pulling logs. Kate said that this would have been a fine job for Freddie – if he had been working in a proper harness. But his owners harnessed him with a chain and he had gashes and scars on his shoulders when she purchased him. There are still white hair spots on his shoulders where the wounds healed. Kate said that almost all of the horses that they have in the production company are rescues of one kind or another. One of the rewards for Eddie at the end of a show is to be ridden up to the fence and get petted by members of the audience. He likes people!
Roundtable Productions presently has four horses and are looking for several more. They have had up to seven horses at one time. Kate said that not every horse is a good fit for this job. She does not assume a particular horse can or cannot joust. The first thing she does with a horse is to let him decompress from his previous life before she begins training. Freddie has received dressage training and she has ridden him in Falconry. Freddie had also interviewed to be a police horse, but he has a dreadful fear of flapping plastic. Jousting is a better fit for him.
Kate continued, “One of the other horses named Addie really likes to joust. He gets into the role and will sometimes try to bite the other horse during combat.” The horses are ridden with a kimberwick bit and sometimes in a bit-less bridle, as the riders carrying lances have to control the horse one handed. The demonstration saddles are lightweight English saddles covered by a drape. In full combat, rather than a demonstration, the saddles are authentic jousting saddles.
All of the horses in the production at present are geldings. Kate said that they have to travel and stable together and a mare in the mix can upset the balance. Rob said that when on the road, the horses are corralled together in the open whenever possible. They have a living quarters trailer and the Troup stays on the grounds with the horses for better care and protection.
On the first weekend of this faire the jousting was set up in the open on the grass. This was a historicly realistic setting, but with limited visibility for the audience. The second weekend’s performance was in the rodeo arena with ample bleacher seating. Although the footing was good, it was a bit dusty. Fortunately, there was no rain and a breeze because the August heat is hard on riders in full armor. The knights of old did not have to wear armor and fight on a mid-south summer day.
For more information about the Mid-South Renaissance Faire, visit their website http://midsouthrenfaire.com. Or visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midsouthrenfaire
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