Wednesday 2 October 2013

The Pennsic War: A First-timer’s Perspective (Pennsic War 30, August 2001)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

When we first joined the SCA back in February, a lot of people told us about this big camping event in Pennsylvania. We thought it sounded interesting, but it maybe something for next year. As time went by, and we heard more and more, we said, “Hm. Maybe going this year wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.”

So we loaded down our tiny Saturn and left Toronto on Saturday (Aug. 11) at 4:40 in the morning. We were quickly waved across the border by a sleepy Yankee, and quickly sailed down the Interstate, arriving at Cooper’s Lake Campground around 10 am.

I still remember the sense of awe as we were driving along the highway, and all of a sudden the trees to our right opened up to reveal a sea of pavilions and tents. “This must be it!” we exclaimed. We found our way to Troll and were processed within ten minutes. (We had pre-regged.)

Using the map that came in our Pennsic booklet, we meandered our way through throngs of garb-clad SCAdians, slowly crawling down Runestone Hill, and entering the Swamp/Bog area. All the little side streets weren’t on the map, so we took a slightly circuitous route, until we saw Streonwald (of Caer Draeth) through the trees, and Raffe across the road from him.

We had come with grand plans, with lists of battles of to watch and classes to take. But there was just too much to do! Too many merchants, too many entertainers, too many friends to see and make. We did make sure we watched the Castle Battle (which was quite impressive), the Dwarves vs. Giants Tourney (the Dwarves were so-so one on one, but once they let them swarm…!), the Field Battles and the Bridge Battles. I can’t tell you how impressive it was to see those two armies line up, our fighters from Ealdormere singing, others clanging weapons on shields. Then to see them rush at each other…it was like being inside of Braveheart or one of the old Sand and Sandal Epics. It was especially impressive when they fought with combat archery and siege equipment. (Though the platoon of Drachenwalders wiped out by archers didn’t care much for it).

In the battles, Ealdormere in general, and Septentria in particular were front and center. We brought with us many allies (such as House Mjolnar, House Ironlance, and the Swampie Archers), and with them we showed the Middle Allies how to fight a war. Whenever the Middle won a War Point, or came very close to doing so, it was usually through the efforts of Ealdormere. Wassail!

Ardchreag supplied at least five fighters to the war effort (Brandt, Vlad, Eanor, Ziggy and Raffe) and at least two scouts (Fursto and yours truly). (Sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone.) That’s right, I scouted at War this year, in the Woods Battle. I was supposed to work with Baron Brand of Ben Dunfirth, but once the action started we quickly got separated. We had a plethora of scouts on our side, especially down the one tree line, so I ended up scouting for a Middle Kingdom Lord, watching our western line, and watching for infiltrators.

After the battle I walked down the hill, all the way to the Ardchreag encampment (which are about as far apart as possible), stopping on the way to get one of Pennsic’s true treasures. One of the food venders sold lemon shakes, which was basically just a piece of lemon and some sugar in ice water, but man was it good! The Americans present just went on and on about the chocolate milk, but we Canucks couldn’t get enough of those shakes! We even started making our own in the Ardchreag camp.

Most nights, we didn’t get to bed until three. One night we were up until five am, sitting in a coffee hut, listening to a bard from Drachenwald called Fremen the Minstrel. Other nights were sat out on the dark List Fields and watched the meteor showers, or watched the shadow puppet shoes, or stopped by the Fettered Cock to talk pewter casting.

The one thing we learned for next year is to only bring a few perishable goods. Ice melts fast in PA! You’re better to make a couple runs into town. We had to throw away a good deal of meat. Also, bring good supportive footwear. We had been warned in advance, so were prepared, but others weren’t. We heard a story of a fellow Ealdormerean who wore moccasins one year and had his heel split open. (If you ever go, you will be walking a lot!)

There’s more I could go on about, but I’m running out of space. I’ll leave you with the words I began most conversations with after getting home, “You’ve gotta go to Pennsic!”

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