by Laura Rodley
A crowd of over a 1,000 watched the afternoon’s jousting on Father’s Day during the eighth annual Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival held in Montague, MA. Nine horses had been brought up through the Georgia-based troupe DeBracey Productions owned by Bill Burch to perform at the family-friendly festival, attended by more than 8,000 over Father’s Day weekend.
They were only one of over 30 entertainment acts over the weekend. The grounds and woods of the host, Millers Falls Rod and Gun Club, were transformed into the Shire of Nottingham. Throughout the day were enactments of Robin Hood encountering the Sheriff of Nottingham and his second in command sidekick, Guy of Gisbourne. And, of course, Maid Marian was there too.
Members of the DeBracey Productions jousters hailed from environs throughout the East Coast, enacting a skit featuring different characters in an age-old reenactment of good versus evil. Mistress of ceremonies, Tara Bellido de Luna of Baltimore, MD, played Princess Luna, who was defending her kingdom against would-be usurpers. While she was on foot, the others had the advantage of being on horseback, carrying swords or slinging arrows.
“It’s my first time doing this. It’s a lot of fun. It’s the smallest festival I’ve been to. The people are super-pumped, really engaged. It’s impressive for such a small fair, bringing forth so many people so engaged and excited,” Bellido de Luna said. She is used to larger crowds, of up to 10,000, that attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Annapolis, MD.
The jousters shot bows and arrows, thrust their spears upward to catch rings thrown through the air while galloping on horseback, and donned armor and armored helmets to knock each other off their horses with lances. Some riders performed trick-riding, such as riding upside down while their horses galloped, displaying superior body strength while holding their weight with their hands.
Having jousting as a form of entertainment is important because “it draws so many people here to see the joust,” Bellido de Luna said. “It’s a huge source of revenue, a huge entertainment piece. There are not that many companies that will do this kind of thing.
“People don’t just want to shop all day, they want a bit of stardust,” Bellido de Luna, who delivered stardust in spades, added.
She usually rides a horse named Eli, but Eli was hitched to the chariot that spun around the ring. She cautioned attendees that while the riders were pretending to be different characters, their horses were very real, and to keep children out of the ring and to keep their feet behind the thin ropes.
Drawing on tried and true crowd pleasing skills of years’ past vaudeville shows, Princess Luna invited one side of the crowd to root for one performer, and the other side of the crowd to root for another, making them part of the show and bringing more life to it.
Caleb Jordan had performed here last year. He returned under the guise of Sir Keegan O’Connor. He rode a medicine hat paint horse – so called due to both its ears and the top of its head and forelock being chestnut, considered by some American Indians to be a powerful symbol – named Cochise.
Lori Whitehouse from Polk County, FL, played Lady Isla from Scotland, the only woman jouster performing on Sunday afternoon. Jeremy Oliver from Boca Raton, FL, performed as Prince Aybek, along with Sir William DeBracey.
The Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival is one of several events organized by Northampton, MA-based Knighten Guild and Company 501(c)3, formed in 2016. Holding true to their mission of being involved in and supporting the community, donations were raised during the festival for the Florence, MA-based Cancer Connection, the Center for Self Reliance, part of Community Action of the Franklin, Hampshire, and North Quabbin regions, Leverett, MA-based Dakin Humane Society and maintenance repairs of the 178-year-old Montague Common Hall.
In his time, Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. At this festival, everyone was included in giving to the poor by bringing cans of food to offset their entry fee.
“For every two cans of non-perishable items, they got a dollar taken off their admission fee [and a token]. They can use the token in the festival to use at a vendor. It’s been very successful. It’s been a fun event,” said Justin Costa, program coordinator for Center for Self Reliance of Community Action, at www.communityaction.us . They received 2,000 pounds of non-perishable food items. “Everyone with the Knighten Guild has been super-generous. They are really good supporters of our program. They’re awesome.”
Total savings per ticket could be up to three dollars’ worth of tokens, which translates into substantial savings for a family, noted Brattleboro, VT, resident David Agro, president of Knighten Guild 501(c)3. “Part of that is to thank them, and we think it’s just a good thing to do,” he said.
“Basically our interest is art and education in the region, coming at it from two different angles. We bring art to festivals that people can enjoy,” while the educational component is achieved through historical reenactments, Agro said. “We try to make it so that there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes it so great.”
“Part of it is to do our best to strengthen the local community, and part of that is by helping the community,” Agro continued.
For more information, visit www.muttonandmead.org.
Jousting at Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival 2018
by Laura Rodley