Collis Common Ground goes Medieval for an afternoon
I woke up Saturday morning with the strangest urge to make a chain mail shirt and embroider. What better place to go to satisfy my yearnings than at the Medieval Faire that was being held in the Collis Common Ground? The Society for Creative Anachronisms and Dartmouth's Medieval Enthusiasts co-sponsored the four-hour event that was filled with fun activities for all.
The event covered the spectrum of ages and backgrounds, as many of the organizers were alums spanning the years. Dartmouth students and members of the SCA, too, ran the various activity booths that included calligraphy, chain mail design and yarn making. The SCA is an international renaissance society that focuses on the time period from 1000 A.D. to 1600 A.D.
Gillian Tedcastle, a member of the SCA, ran a booth on leather carving and design. It was her first exhibition at a convention of this type. "This is where I give back to the community by freely sharing my knowledge on this subject," said Tedcastle on her presence at the fair. Her intention was to teach the participants enough about the craft so that they could go home and make a leather product of their own.
Over at the chain mail station, Evan Knopp took Dartmouth students back to the days of antiquity by way of linking small rings together. "What is really interesting about the Middle Ages was the number of things people could do with limited means," said Knopp. Preston Crowe '94, with his chain mail shirt, showed off the fruits of many hours of hard work. The shirt, he said, took two years to create. Beware; this could be a new fashion trend rivaling the popularity of the pashmina.
Student organizer Zeb Lowe '03 gave her sentiments on the fair: "I think it's going quite well. I didn't know what to expect coming in, as it was the first convention of this type. We are getting some new people who wouldn't normally be exposed to this area of history."
Making yarn from cotton is a skill that today's student takes for granted. But fair promoters tried to give students a taste of the painstaking process that went into the production of yarn through an interactive demonstration of drop spinning.
Erica Duque '03 commented on her experience at the festival, "I came in here because I had heard about the fair and thought it would be interesting. The spinning turned out to be really interesting."
Professor of English Alan Gaylord gave a Chaucer reading midway through the festival. His emotional rendition gave fairgoers a literary view into the lives of people in the Middle Ages. Since that time period is a somewhat esoteric genre of study, the reading provided a view that many had never experienced before.
Gaylord read selections from "The Saga of the Volsungs" in Old Norse and from Chaucer's "The Reeve's Tale" in Middle English. Gaylord was given a standing ovation for his spirited reading of the passages.
"The fair was a charming event, well organized, relaxed but attentive and amiably concentrated on various material crafts," Gaylord said.
A half-hour long fashion show followed the reading. Dartmouth students and SCA members alike showed off their 'threads' as they strutted down the walkway as kings, queens and knights. Homemade costumes comprised an integral part of the fashion show, demonstrating that the art of sewing has not been completely lost on today's college students.
In today's complicated world of cell phones, Internet connections and Starbucks, the Medieval Faire offered a different view. The organizers of the event painted an interactive and exciting picture of medieval life that had appeal regardless of what century you're living in.