Last summer, July 26 -August 10, 2019 I attended my fifth Pennsic: Pennsic 48.
Following my second Pennsic (Pennsic 45) I started a tradition of writing a “Top Ten” post with my favorite memories of the event. But this year was a bit different for me. I was over-committed, exhausted, and stressed – and had been for quite a while leading up to the event – which led to mistakes and offenses committed by yours truly. After the event was over, I struggled to come up with a list of the good things that happened and so my “Top Ten” post for the year was neglected.
Now that apologies have been made and time has helped to soften the sharp edges of memory, I wanted to revisit my time at Pennsic last year for the sake of posterity at the very least. A wise man suggested that instead of my usual list of “Top Ten” moments, I write a more general overview of my past five years at Pennsic and how my experiences at War have evolved. I found this to be a clever compromise and so here we are 😊
My first Pennsic was Pennsic 44, in the modern year 2015. While I had joined the SCA in the summer of 2013 and so technically been a member for two years, I had only attended a dozen or so small, local events. This Pennsic proved to be a catalyst for my future as a SCAdian.
In another post dedicated solely to my experiences at Pennsic 44, I made mention that I believed that first Pennsic War to be the event that spurred me on to greater involvement in the SCA. That being the case, a lot of changes took place between my first and second Pennsic. I became an officer for my local group, the Barony of Ponte Alto, as Webminister, Deputy Chatelain, and Archery Marshal. I joined a new household – The Honorable Company of Grimmsfield – run by (recently made) Master Stephan Grimm and Lady Gunnora Grimm, whom I’d met while camping at my first Pennsic. And while I’d experimented in many areas of the Arts & Sciences, I discovered that my path in the SCA would lie in the way of service.
Now for both my first and second Pennsic (44 & 45) I camped with House Longbow, run by Earl Mika Longbow and his wife Ursula, on block N22. House Longbow is a great group of people with years of experience in the SCA, welcoming hosts, and excellent friends. I will always look back fondly on my time in that camp and with those people who helped me enjoy my first experiences at Pennsic. Alas, change is inevitable, and so by the second year at Pennsic there were already plans being made for my new household, Grimmsfield, to break away from Longbow and form a new camp exclusive to our small but energetic group of household members. And so my third Pennsic, and every Pennsic since, has been spent camping with Grimmsfield on block N22. Yes, we are still neighbors and friends with House Longbow 😊
But I appear to be getting ahead of myself a bit. My second Pennsic was just as (if not more) enjoyable as my first. Lots of new experiences, new friends, and new memories were made. This event was my first time volunteering to retain for Royalty. It was also my first time volunteering to work as a waterbearer for the battles held during War Week. These two “jobs” are some of my favorites and I’ve volunteered in the same way every Pennsic since.
Pennsic 45 was also the year I managed to take only ONE class at Pennsic University (that involved a very painful walk to the Bog and back in new shoes 😢) . Though I had a detailed schedule planned out well in advance of the event with lots of interesting classes that I wanted to take… things didn’t quite go to plan. One of the things I’ve learned now is that my bandwidth for the day is limited to three activities MAX. Any more than that and something is going to fall off. This year, it was classes.
Another first for me this Pennsic was trying out for the Archery Champions shoot. Pennsic 45 actually remains the ONLY Pennsic in which I tried out for the Archery Champions shoot… I did not make the team 😉
Luckily this was the Pennsic that I began my “Top Ten” lists and so I’m able to look back, read, and remember my favorite moments from that year.
My third Pennsic was Pennsic 46. Not only was I camping with a new camp, but it was also my first year spending both Peace Week and War Week at Pennsic. In addition to helping form a new camp, another big change that happened after my second Pennsic was my involvement with newcomers to the SCA and my work as a Chatelain. By this time I had taken on the role of Deputy Chatelain for my Barony and at Pennsic I had volunteered to fill shifts at Newcomers Point. Little did I know at the time that my experience at Newcomers Point would later lead me to become a member of Pennsic staff as the Newcomer Activities Coordinator and the Kingdom Chatelain for Atlantia.
Pennsic 46 was the year I barely adhered to my schedule. I found that I had much more fun relaxing in camp that year and spending time with my chosen family in the new space that we had created for ourselves. The commitments that I did keep were in volunteering at Newcomers Point, teaching (for the first time) two different classes for Pennsic University, and waterbearing during battles. Highlights from Pennsic 46 can be found in Top Ten from that year.
Looking back on the past five Pennsics, I feel that Pennsic 46 was the best of them so far. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I struck that balance between staying busy and relaxing that can be so, so hard to find at an event where there is something happening every minute of the day and night.
Pennsic 47 proved to be a bit more stressful than past Wars. I can say now that navigating a two week event while in a relationship has a different set of challenges. It’s difficult enough to find that balance between fun and work as a single lady 😉, but add a partner into the mix and there is a whole new set of obligations to fulfill. I won’t say much more about this Pennsic – my Top Ten is here – other than lessons were learned.
And that brings me to Pennsic 48, my most recent Pennsic War. This year not only did I become an official member of Pennsic staff as the Newcomers Activities Coordinator, but I was also a member of the Royal Retinue for Their Majesties Christoph and Adelhait of Atlantia. What’s that saying about all work and no play?
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, mistakes were made and feelings were hurt. Those mistakes have now been atoned for and hurt feelings made better, but at the time they did make my Pennsic War that year significantly less fun. I found myself spending most nights hanging out quietly in camp or attending official functions as a retainer, than out at parties or down in the Bog as I normally would have been. I was more focused on doing my job as Pennsic staff, as a teacher for Pennsic U, and as a member of the Royal Retinue than on the traditional activities that I found fun or relaxing at past Pennsics.
Despite the amount of work required there were still some fun highlights to my War that year. The first was FINALLY being able to attend Fizzball with my friends Ronan & Leesa and their camp Morning Wood. Fizball (a game of “baseball” played with beer cans instead of baseballs) has been on my Pennsic schedule for years but it’s always been one of the things that has fallen off due to other obligations. This year I made sure to go. The theme for the Morning Wood Fizzball team was the Wizard of Oz and so I went as the Wicked Witch of the West (medieval style). Participating in Fizzball was the one activity that year that didn’t feel like “work”. I didn’t feel like I had to be “on” – doing or saying the right thing in case someone was watching – and it was nice to be able to relax a bit in that moment.
Another highlight was being made a Court Baroness, along with my Companion sister, Marguerite. It was a (somewhat) unexpected surprise and a pleasant way to end two weeks of physical, mental, and emotional labor.
And, in keeping with years past, another highlight was once again marshaling for the St. Sebastian’s archery shoot, hosted by the Kingdom of Atlantia. This year we had matching hats!
Lastly, it was a privilege to spend this Pennsic with my Peer Duchess Adelhait, her husband Duke Christoph, and our household, Honey Badger, as They served as Royals of Atlantia at Pennsic. Having spent a year as retinue, attending both Gulf Wars and Pennsic, I can honestly say it is one of the most time consuming and stressful jobs that one can take on in the SCA. It is an emotional rollercoaster full of highs and lows, and you really have to love the people you serve in order to make it worth it.