Port Gamble Medieval Fair takes attendees back in time

Heavy combat fighter Aephen of Eppelhurst battles during the Saturday tourney at Port Gamble. The local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism sponsored the annual Medieval Faire. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Heavy combat fighter Aephen of Eppelhurst battles during the Saturday tourney at Port Gamble. The local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism sponsored the annual Medieval Faire.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

PORT GAMBLE — It’s embarrassing being caught naked in public.

Just like a terrible nightmare, those new to Port Gamble’s Medieval Fair this weekend found out the hard way — informed by knights, lords and ladies — they were indeed nude.

A quick, panicked look down assured they were covered; however, some were immediately escorted to changing rooms for proper medieval attire.

An onslaught of trucks and SUVs piled into a muddy make-shift parking lot Friday in a clearing behind the town to offload fur tents and hand-made yurts.

Doors opened and out stepped steel-covered, armored fighters, jewelry laden gypsies, belly dancers and those looking like kin to Robin Hood and Maid Merriam.

Fires were started for spit-roasting feasts, armored fighting rings were roped off and medieval mercantile set up shop.

Come Saturday morning, the encampment was alive with a clash of the ages —?moderns and medievals.

Fairs such as Port Gamble’s are the sole public displays of the Society of Creative Anachronism, established at a University of California at Berkeley party in the 1960s and developed into an international organization with more than 30,000 members. It’s sole purpose: recreating historic arts and sciences.

“The goal is to represent the middle ages as they should have been, avoiding the bubonic plague and Spanish Inquisition,” said Eric De Dragonslair, a chatelaine for the SCA’s Kingdom of An Tir, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Canada.

“Our kingdom is a little larger than all Europe,” he said. In the modern world he’s known as Eric Bosley, a professor of law related classes at Olympic College and Chapman University. He’s been involved with the SCA for more than 20 years.

“We can be a family for people and it’s a way to make lots of friends,” he said. “We attract all walks of life.”

And all types of admirers.

“Last year we had 2,000 people camping and up to 2,500 visitors but with the price of gas that number might drop,” he said.

The swampy marsh areas and uneven ground laid out the setting for the rapier fencing and heavy armor fighting battleground.

Archers proved their expertise, nailing target after target as others wandered the tents exploring the age-old art of spinning yarn, seamstressing and woodworking.

“There’s so much to SCA. It’s not just about fighting but the fighting is awesome,” said Kristina Portney, also known as Margaret Elwald.

While the men and women battled for rank and reward, Portney baked armored turnips.

In her camp kitchen she sliced and diced using dishware, handmade the same way it was hundreds of years ago.

On the table in front of her was a loaf of blackened bread, cooked by fire. Behind her a chicken roasted on a fire spit.

“There’s not a lot of existing knowledge about cooking back then,” she said. “A lot of it was lost or passed down through family.”

Through her six years of research she has come to appreciate the artistic interpretation required in medieval cooking.

Portney said recipes were vague guidelines calling to use a fair amount of flour and eggs. There were no teaspoon or quarter-cup measurements.

“It was not a science. It was very much an art,” she said.

Throughout the weekend heralds wandered through the camps shouting out messages of the events and ushering people to join in games of human chess.

For one weekend the woods of Port Gamble turned into a Sherwood Forest of sorts allowing moderns a look into the past as authentic as research allows.

As quick as the Kingdom of Antire set up camp on Friday evening, they vanished by Monday morning.

In the onset of morning, the Society of Creative Anachronism packed away their steel armor, fire roasters and traveling shops to become moderns once again.

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