Funny enough I started writing about my first Pennsic as a part of my “Five Years of Pennsic” post, but quickly found that I was spending far too much time recounting the details of my first year at this incredible event. I realized that if I kept on like I was that my “Five Years” post would never end. And so I created this.
My first Pennsic was Pennsic 44, held in 2015. I attended Pennsic for only one week this year – War Week – and I had no idea what to expect. While I first began playing in the SCA in 2013, I had only attended maybe a dozen small events in those two years and I still considered myself very new to the Society. I had yet to take on any responsibilities and was still exploring the many activities and crafts that the SCA had to offer. Looking back, I believe that my attendance at Pennsic this year is what spurred my future involvement in the SCA, my interest in becoming a local officer, and my commitment to service.
That year I was invited to camp with House Longbow, the archery household of Earl Mika Longbow and his wife Ursula, on block N22. My friend, Lord Robert Cameron de Grey, offered his carousel pavilion up for lodging to be shared by myself and another member of the camp. I remember we put so much effort into decorating the pavilion after arriving on that middle Friday – hanging colorful saris and Moroccan lanterns along the interior walls – that even Cameron stated how jealous he was of our improvised set-up. I wish now that I had taken pictures of our home for that week, that I had taken more pictures of Pennsic that year in general, but I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t think to take pictures or post anything on social media until the event had ended!
Now in the weeks leading up to the event I had cobbled together a schedule of sorts – listing 3-4 activities that I planned to do each day. I wasn’t very successful in keeping to that schedule and looking back I’m amazed at how much free time I must have had to just relax and wander around. But there were several activities that I made sure to prioritize, namely shooting archery and attending parties. And so, my first day at Pennsic was spent on the archery range. I was a Marshal in Training (MiT) at the time for Target Archery, and so my first MiT shift happened at Atlantia’s St. Sebastian’s shoot on Middle Saturday. It was my first time as a Marshal in Training and I remember how much I enjoyed meeting people from around the Knowne World and enabling them to shoot archery and have fun.
The next day was Opening Ceremonies and it was held in the morning that year. I remember I wore a blue polyester dress and by the time the Ceremonies were over, I was SWELTERING. I went back to camp and immediately changed into something made of linen!
Sunday night was the Lowdy Toadie – a party that’s held annually at Casa Bardicci, a reproduction of a 15th century Venetian villa. This night remains one of my favorite SCA memories. There is nothing like Casa Bardicci at night – stepping in to an incredibly realistic Italian villa, filled with torchlight, music, and dance – created one of those “Medieval Moments” that SCAdians all live to experience.
What I most remember about that night was that two friends of mine – a couple with two small children – had constructed a covered wagon of sorts so that they could bring their kids along at night so as not to leave them unattended in camp. And so the children were brought into the Lowdy Toadie party at Casa Bardicci, asleep in a covered wagon! And they slept peacefully there for hours, despite the music and revelry taking place around them. Another couple with their children sleeping in a similar wagon showed up and joined us. And so we created a “Children Parking Zone” in the courtyard of the Casa. Afterwards, we all helped push the wagon back up that awful hill that lies between the lake and the “Serengeti”, where we were camped that year.
The Monday of War Week was spent on the archery range, shooting war points in order to score for our side of the War that year. I’m sad to say this might be the only year at Pennsic that I managed to complete every war point station! Each year since became busier and busier and while I always made it out to the range to work as a Marshal, I rarely enjoyed shooting for pleasure.
That night was the Hafla Jadida, held at Camp Mileacre. My friend who had lent me the use of his pavilion, Cameron, was playing host that evening. There was hookah and drumming and belly dancing… and a minor kerfuffle in which the staff from the Pennsic Performing Arts Pavilion asked us to drum more quietly so as not to disturb the performances that were taking place across the street. We left shortly after!
The next day I played babysitter to my friend Cameron’s two daughters while he fought in the battle taking place that morning. We explored the Pennsic playground, ate ice cream, and did arts & crafts in camp. That night we celebrated the birthday of my friend Annika’s son, Sebastian, with a S’mores Bar hosted in the Barony of Ponte Alto’s camp.
Wednesday afternoon I attended a three hour bardic coaching class, taught by Master John Littleton. That class was the highlight of my Pennsic University experience that year. Each student stood and performed at the front of the class and Master John offered feedback for improvement. It was like a private concert for and by those new to the bardic (performing arts) community in the SCA and I LOVED it.
That night was the traditional night for Midnight Madness at Pennsic. Midnight Madness is the only night during the week that the merchant area is open late and vendors are selling their stock at reduced prices. It’s a hugely popular activity, incredibly crowded and incredibly fun! Much alcohol was imbibed and much amber was later purchased as a result. It was a great night.
Thursday is traditionally the day that the Kingdom of Atlantia holds its Court. I can’t for the life of me remember how I spent that day, but that evening was spent in Court watching new friends receive awards.
So what day is really the last day of Pennsic? That answer can vary depending on the person or camp. According to the rules of the event everyone (and their personal property) must be off site by noon on Sunday. However, some folks start packing up and leaving as early as Thursday so that they can get home and have the weekend to recover before returning to the “real world” on Monday. What has become my tradition (and the tradition of the folks that I camp with) is to spend Friday morning saying goodbye to people and activities before beginning the pack out process Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon and evening is then spent packing the majority of the camp’s common areas – the common tents, the kitchen, the shower, etc. Saturday morning is then spent packing personal belongings so that everyone in camp can be finished and off site by Saturday afternoon.
And so Friday morning was spent saying goodbye to the archery range. I went and shot one last time before returning to camp to begin helping with the pack up process.
Writing this post has reminded me why I always take the time after Pennsic to write down my favorite moments from the War. Letting five years pass since my first Pennsic has allowed some memories of that year to slip away. This has proved especially saddening during this year – the year of COVID. Being unable to make new memories now has shown the value of those times gone past and the joy that spending time with friends and family has wrought.
To the good times.