In parks across America, people are having picnics, joggers are running their favorite trails, birds are chirping … and armored knights from the medieval times are fighting each other?
Itâ€™s not a scene from a science fiction movie or a book. For Staff Sgt. Joseph Park, 25th Operational Weather Squadron weather forecaster and flight weather briefer, itâ€™s a weekly occurrence.
Sergeant Park is a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism, which is an educational medieval reenactment group.
â€œIâ€™ve been in the SCA my entire life,â€ Park said. â€œThe SCA has been around for about 46 years. My parents were involved in it and it is a world-wide organization. It was even at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan when I deployed.â€
Growing up with parents who were members of the SCA has had an effect on Sergeant Park. He is fascinated with everything medieval.
â€œI love it (medieval history),â€ Park said. â€œI have my Bachelorâ€™s degree in English and its concentration is on folklore and mythology. My wife and I went on our honeymoon to England and Whales and had a wonderful time touring the castles and museums.â€
The SCA encompasses many aspect of life in the middle ages, including fighting. Because theyâ€™re a reenactment group, the clothing they wear is specific to the era. If theyâ€™re fighting, armor must be worn, and that too is visually similar to the armor of the time. It can be made from plastic, leather or metal and is forged by hand.
Along with combat, other activities include costuming, banner-making, cooking, brewing, calligraphy, singing, fencing and more. The group also uses their medieval interests and knowledge to educate others.
â€œWe host demonstrations for various schools,â€ Park said. â€œWe talk to the kids mostly about pre-sixteenth century Europe. We also try to teach people skills that were used during the period. We want to show how someone could make a beautiful piece of work with the tools from that era.â€
According to the SCA website, in 2008, there were roughly 30,000 paid members in the group, and the total number of participants was around 60,000.
Every Tuesday night, Park and other SCA members meet at Reid Park to practice armored combat. These fighter practices usually draw around 100 people. Thatâ€™s just individuals from Tucson. The largest event is held in Pennsylvania. The last time Park went, there was more than 10,000 people that attended.
Just like it would be in medieval times, the SCA is divided into kingdoms, which could be comprised of multiple states. Within the kingdoms, there are subdivisions called principalities, and local chapters called baronies, shires, and cantons. This can be used during larger battles to determine who is fighting who. Currently, there are 19 kingdoms spread all around the world.
â€œWhat I find the most appealing about the SCA are the people,â€ Park said. â€œThereâ€™s a great deal of courtesy with the entire group. If you see someone, you nod in greeting. I could go into a group Iâ€™ve never been to and everyone would be immediately friendly to me. Nobility and courtesy are the aspects we focus on.â€
Even with its high number of members, the SCA and medieval reenactments are a niche activity and can lead to some preconceived notions from onlookers.
â€œIf someone glances at my Facebook page, or if I come to a Halloween party dressed in armor, people always ask if Iâ€™m doing live action role playing,â€ Park said. â€œOr they may say, â€˜if I throw a tennis ball at you, are you going to scream out, fireball!â€™ Itâ€™s the same as anything thatâ€™s not a mainstream hobby; people are going to think itâ€™s a little weird. Itâ€™s just human nature. I think you have to do what you want to and what you enjoy.â€
Unlike LARPing, where magic and wizardry plays a role, the SCA is not a fantasy group.
â€œWe donâ€™t cast spells or anything like that,â€ Park said. â€œIt is a historical reenactment group that focuses on the positive aspects of the middle ages. If you enjoy any ideas or aspects of the period, show up at a Reid Park practice from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Just make sure to have a filled-out high risk safety letter. Itâ€™s a lot of fun.â€