SCA Events for the Complete Beginner
There's an upcoming event which interests you and you want to go and "check it out". Attending one of the Society's events is the best method to experience first hand what the SCA is all about. The following paragraphs will provide you with some general information concerning the types of events which abound, how to prepare for one, what to bring, and what to do once you arrive.
Where Do I Find Information on Events?
Local SCA chapters that are hosting official SCA events are required to prepare event flyers. Event flyers are published in the Kingdom newsletter (the Acorn) and quite often, local newsletters. If you are not yet a member of the SCA and/or you have not received your first "Acorn," you can access the on-line Kingdom Event Calendar in the Acorn at http://www.atlantia.sca.org. Click on Chronicler & Acorn on-line and then click on The Kingdom Calendar. If all else fails, ask a member of your local chapter if they can share a copy of their newsletter with you.
Event flyers contain information specific to each event including the name of the event, date, time the site opens and closes, site fees, the name and address of the person who is accepting reservations for the event, directions to the site, an overview of the day's activities, site restrictions if any, and a point of contact if you need additional information, etc.
It is strongly recommended that you make a reservation in advance; especially if you plan on attending the feast. If you find out about the event after it is too late to mail in a reservation, call the autocrat or reservationist before you leave for the event to ensure that there is feast space available. If not, you may still attend the event. Also, you may want to ask to be placed on a waiting list for feast. Sometimes, people who have made advanced reservations are unable to attend the event. However, it is recommended that you bring your own food for dinner or be prepared to eat at a local restaurant as there is no guarantee that you will be reached on the waiting list.
Types of Events
The Weekend Event
This is the most common type of event. Attending these events normally requires ample preparation and driving some distance to a campground. They generally begin on a Friday afternoon and continue through Sunday. Upon arrival, members check in at the TROLL BOOTH, pay any appropriate site fees if not pre-reserved, and obtain any information concerning camping areas and times of any planned activities. Next you will set up your encampment in the allotted camping areas. The weekend events vary in type. Although a large proportion are tournament events where armored combatants battle to become champion of the List, there are also Arts & Sciences competitions or displays for entering period crafts and projects, as well as, Collegiums which offer courses on various SCA subjects. You will be responsible for your own food and drink for breakfast and lunch. Many events offer an evening FEAST for a nominal fee. While some members drive off site to eat at local restaurants, many plan ahead and purchase food as a group and share in the preparation and cleanup. Wine and beer are acceptable drink if you are of legal drinking age and where permissible. Some sites are considered "dry" and do not permit the use of alcohol. Check the event flyer and note if the site is "wet" or "dry".
Throughout the day there are often a number of games, competitions and other activities in which you can participate. These may include archery, chess, heraldic workshops, and arts or sciences classes. The event schedule located at the Troll Booth often lists which activities are planned, as well as, when and where they will occur. These are but a few of the ways to meet and make many new friends. As most weekend events are annually sponsored, someone can usually inform you in advance what the event is like or how to drive there, good information to know!
The One-Day Event
One-day events are similar to weekend events except that there is no camping available and all activities take place on Saturday.
Other SCA Activities
The above events are considered "official" events as they are sponsored by active groups, placed on the Kingdom Calendar, and listed in the monthly newsletter, The Acorn. Other, less formal, "get-togethers" also occur. Although these cannot be considered "events" per se, they still provide a glimpse of Society interaction and are worth mentioning. Local members gather regularly for fighter or dance practice, and hold informational "how-to" meetings on a variety of subjects. These types of gatherings are normally held at a local park, meeting hall, or member's house and are less structured than the Events mentioned above. Generally, you're not expected to attend in garb (period clothing), but it's a good idea to ask someone in advance.
Another type of gathering in which members participate is the DEMO (short for demonstration). These are normally educational demonstrations performed for schools or outside interest groups such as the scouts, or perhaps for recruiting efforts. Demonstrations of heavy weapons or rapier combat, dancing, or other period activities might be performed or displayed. We help promote the Society by answering questions about who we are and lend a period atmosphere with our clothing, crafts, and armor.
What to Bring
Now that you're familiar with some of our events, let's move on as to how you might prepare for attending one. Since the most important aspect concerning an SCA event is to maintain a period "atmosphere", you will need at least one set of period clothes (called garb). Take along a set of feast gear (wood or pewter plate, bowl, goblet or cup, and utensils), any period games (chess, pente, backgammon), musical instruments, needlework, or other period hobby or craft. Fighters should bring their armor and weapons, archers their bow and arrows, and for those who enjoy "live weapons" competitions, their throwing knives, axes and spears. Check the event flyer for any special needs required for any of the activities or competitions. Additional items might include a chair (canvas-backed director's chairs are recommended; avoid using modern-looking chairs. If you don't have anything else to sit on, cover your modern-looking chair with fabric or a cloak) or bring a large pillow or blanket to sit upon, and perhaps some throw rugs to place your gear on. A pavilion would be a nice luxury to shelter you from inclement weather or the sun's rays.
As previously noted, you will be responsible for your own meals, snacks and drink. It is common for a feast to be served on Saturday evening. On rare occasions food merchants are in attendance and offer edibles for a nominal fee. Others simply drive to a nearby eatery, if one is in the area. However, take it from experience, it's always best to bring your own food and drink! Some members opt to bring a propane stove and an assortment of cooking utensils and cook their meals. Others use a campfire, if permitted, or BBQ grill while others simply "rough it" on sandwiches, cheeses or fruits from their ice chests. Another important reminder is to bring along sufficient water. Remember to hide your liquid containers by drinking from a period looking mug or goblet. Your ice chest can easily be disguised with a throw rug or tablecloth. Next we come to accommodations. Bring your tent, canopy, pillow(s), sleeping bag or air mattress, sheets and/or blankets as determined by the weather and your personal tastes for comfort. As for the "facilities", some event sites lack adequate chambers and Lords and Ladies alike may share the same facilities. Courtesy is ALWAYS practiced! Before entering showers or restrooms, one should knock on closed doors and ask, "Be there anyone within?". With a little time and experience you will learn to adapt as we have.
You will need to bring your own toiletries: towels, soap, etc. Although toilet paper is usually provided, it isn't such a bad idea to bring along a roll of your own. Band aids and bug spray or citronella candles are equally good ideas. A flashlight or candle lantern is ESSENTIAL as many sites have no outdoor lighting (avoid using Coleman-type lanterns.) Bring along any other supplies which will make the event more enjoyable.
A general checklist of possible SCA needs is at the end of this article. Remember, it's not necessary to go out and purchase a lot of equipment prior to your first event. Some items may be borrowed from other members or your local Chatelaine, while others will be collected by you over the course of time.
Getting to the Site
It's probably a safe bet that you will be driving to an area that you've never been to before, and probably, in the middle of the night as well. If you're unable to secure a ride or follow someone else who's going, make sure you have one or two good maps of the area and some detailed instructions on how to find the site. Check the event flyer for a map and directions. As you near the event site there will usually be several SCA signs at all the turn-off areas indicating direction to the campground.
Now, assuming everything went well, you will eventually find yourself at the event site. Congratulations! You're about to get your first real experience of life in the "Current Middle Ages". As mentioned earlier, the first thing to do upon arrival is to check in at the Troll Booth. If you haven't pre-registered (prepaid), you will pay your entrance fee. The registration table should include a list of the planned activities and their start times. If you wish to participate in any of the listed activities, place your name on the appropriate sign-up sheet. There is no limit to the number of activities you can enter, but avoid signing up for activities which begin at the same time. The Troll Booth attendants will advise you where the camping and parking areas are. Be courteous when setting up your camp; a minimal amount of noise will be appreciated by those already asleep!
You're Here. Now What?
The following narrative is one possible example of what you might encounter if you were to attend a Tournament. As "Tourneys" represent an often recurring theme as events go, it was chosen as the model for this narrative. While Lists and Wars are predominant themes, many events focus on non-martial activities such as Collegiums and Arts & Sciences Competitions. Naturally, their format will vary somewhat from the following presentation. However, even Tournaments include a wide variety of activities for those whose interests lie outside the realm of armed combat.
The Herald's call will be heard early in the morning announcing the first of the day's planned activities. This will typically include Armor Inspection. Now is the time to put on some garb and eat some breakfast. While you're up and about, be sure to check the event schedule for the times and locations of the day's many activities. Also, be sure to register for any contest, games, or classes in which you plan to participate. Following inspection, the armed combat will generally be the next activity. You will hear the Herald's announcement proclaiming haste for all fighters to complete inspection. Inspection requires all entrants to be fully armored and equipped to allow the Marshal(s) an opportunity to review everyone's gear prior to the list or battle. If you're not fighting, you can go out to the field and view the impending combat. Additional ways to spend your time might include checking out the merchant's displays, attend or enter one of the other contests being held, or circulate and make new friends. When lunch time comes around (it's whenever you're hungry), activities tend to slow down. Grab your feast gear and enjoy lunch. Following your meal you can resume watching or entering any of the ongoing activities: games, dancing, lessons on period topics/subjects, etc. Towards the end of the day you will want to begin preparations for court and feast by changing into your court garb.
At Court, the list Champion(s) and winners of the day's contests will be called up before the Crown or Coronet. Additional presentations, proclamations and Society/Kingdom business will be addressed. Note that all who appear before Their Royal Presence use the appropriate forms of reverence: the bow & curtsy.
Following Court, feast will commence. Depending on the site, it may be held outdoors or inside a hall. In preparation for the meal, set out your table, chair, ground cloth or carpet if the setting is to be outdoors. Next, set out your plate, bowl, mug or goblet, and eating utensils. Remember to maintain the atmosphere by using metal, wood, or ceramic for your feast gear items. Optional luxuries might include a tablecloth, matching cloth napkins, a salt cellar, candle and candle holders. Feast is yet another opportunity to meet and make many new friends. While food is served, beverages are sometimes not. Come prepared. Water, iced tea, soft drinks are all common beverages. Beer, wine and mead are probably the most common alcoholic beverages consumed. CHECK TO MAKE SURE THE EVENT IS NOT ON A DRY SITE! (Remember…a dry site means that no alcohol is permitted on site) This information is normally contained in the event flyer. In addition, YOU MUST BE OF LEGAL DRINKING AGE TO CONSUME ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES! Remember to disguise the look of modern bottles and cans by drinking from your mug or goblet. You will find that a large sturdy wicker basket or canvas tote bag is extremely useful for storing and carrying your feast gear. It should be large enough to carry a duplicate set of plates, bowls, utensils, drinking vessels and any of your other dining needs. Why an EXTRA set? What better way to meet that lord or lady you've admired? Invite them to dine with you. Following Court and Feast you will find people engaged in various activities. Some will be playing musical instruments, some singing or performing at bardic circles, some dancing or playing period games, while others will be sitting in small groups conversing. Join in any one of these activities and, when you're ready, call it a day.
Again you may hear the herald's voice announcing any of the day's planned events. If you're attending any of these, it's time to put on your garb and enjoy some breakfast. If not, you might begin packing and taking down your encampment. Once you've finished loading all your gear, remember to completely clean up your campsite. Soon the time will come to say good-bye to your new friends and make promises to meet at the next event.
Suggested Event Packing List
For the Auto:
- Event Flyer
- Road Atlas
- Change (quarters for pay phone and/or tolls)
- Cellular Phone
- 1st Aid Kit
- Umbrella/Rain Gear
1st To Unload/Last To Pack:
- Ground Cloth
- Floor Rug(s)
- Bedroll/Air Mattress (Air Pump)
- Sheets/Blankets (seasonal)
- Clothing (Garb & Mundane)
- Toiletries: INCLUDING SUNSCREEN!
- Dining Fly/Canopy
- Chair/Stool (covers for same?)
- Folding Table (covers for same?)
- Archery Gear
- Live Weapons Equipment
- Cassette/CD Player
- Period Music
- Musical Instrument
- Weaving Projects
- Wicker Basket/Canvas Tote
- Plate, Bowl, Goblet, Utensils
- Candles, Holders & Matches
- Large Plastic Bags
- Ice Chest
- Lunch Meats
- Soft Drinks, Juice
- Beer/Mead (If Permitted - Check Event Flyer!)
- Bread, Crackers, Chips
- Wine (If Permitted - Check Event Flyer!)
- Coleman Stove
- BBQ Pit, Hibachi (If Permitted - check with Autocrat concerning open flame restrictions)
- Pots, Pans, Cooking Utensils
- Cleanup items: Dish Soap, Scouring Pads, Towels