Your First Event
Once you’ve come to a few meetings, you may be ready for your first event. An event is a larger gathering, with several activities scheduled throughout the day. This often includes tournaments, classes, feasting, and court. How to join in at an event isn’t always immediately obvious, so on this page, we’ll walk through what a typical event is like.
Before going to an event, there’s a few things you’ll need to make sure you have ready. The first is garb. Unlike general meetings, at events, having garb is required. This doesn’t need to be super fancy. The requirement is only an “attempt” at something period.
Next, you’ll want to give some thought as to what sort of event you’re attending. If it’s an indoor event, you shouldn’t need much extra, but if it’s outdoor, consider bringing a chair of some sort, as well as sunscreen and insect repellant. It’s also a good idea to bring along something to drink from. If it’s a camping event, make sure you have things necessary for that and do a bit of research to understand how primitive the site is so you know if you’ll need to bring your own water or other supplies. Will there be a feast? If so, you’ll want to bring a plate, bowl, utensils, and a napkin as well!
At the event, the first thing you’ll need to do is find the Gate. This is where you check in and, if there is a site fee, pay. Keep in mind many events only take cash or check. You may be asked if you have a blue card. This is asking if you are a paid member of the SCA. It’s fine if you’re not, but if you are, you’ll receive a blue membership card in the mail and it will get you a $5 discount to most events. Depending what else is going on at the event, there may be some waivers to sign. This is quite common when the event has equestrian activities.
One of the big features at many events is tournament fighting. If you’re looking to participate, you’ll need to be “authorized.” Authorization is a test that fighters must go through before being allowed to participate in anything beyond a practice. In it, you’ll need to demonstrate that you understand the rules, your blows are properly calibrated in force, and that you’re not a danger to yourself or others. Generally, authorizations are done in the hour or so before a tournament starts. Make sure to check the schedule. They often take place in the same location as the fighting will happen. If you need to get authorized, you’ll first need to find the marshals in charge of doing the authorizations.
Once you’re authorized, you’ll need to sign up for the tournament. To do this find the “List Table”. This is where the people organizing the brackets will sit to observe the fights and keep track of the winners and losers. They will generally have a sign-up there and a herald will announce when it is closing so you don’t forget.
If you’re all signed up, then you’re free to do what you’d like until the tournament gets started. A herald will announce the matches. This comes in the form of who will be fighting next, as well as the pairings for the next two matches. In Calontir, we often say this as “to the field”, “arming”, and “preparing to arm” respectively. Make sure you stay close enough to be able to hear the herald so you know when your turn is coming up.
It’s often a good idea to do some warm-up matches before the tournament starts. We frequently refer to these as “pick-up” fights. Since events draw people from a larger region, this is an excellent opportunity to meet new fighters who may be able to teach you something new. Even after the tournament gets started, there will frequently be pick-up matches off to the side for those that have been knocked out of the tournament.
One of the great things about the SCA is that almost topic has someone that’s interested in it. And since we are frequently excited about the things we’ve learned, many people will teach classes. Events are a great place to find many of these all in one place. Some events are often centered entirely around classes or may have a particular theme. For example, Clotheir’s Seminar is an event entirely dedicated to classes on clothing.
To find out what classes are being offered, the best place to start is the schedule. For larger events, class descriptions may be listed separately or found online.
Classes can come in many different forms. Many times they are a lecture format with a speaker presenting the information they have learned. However, for others, they may be a hands-on class, allowing attendees to follow along with a particular craft. Because there might be materials involved that the instructor provides, there may be a fee associated with individual classes. This is generally listed in the class description. Similarly, there may be a small fee for copies of the handout. In those cases, it may be possible to attend the class and simply watch if you would prefer not to have this extra cost. In the case of a handout, consider checking with the instructor to see if the have a digital copy available for free.
In modern times, “court” tends to have a negative connotation. It’s where law gets adjudicated and you go when you’re in trouble or are entangled in what’s likely to be a headache. But in the SCA, court is the exact opposite. During an SCA court, we generally recognize people for their achievements, so getting your name called in court is a positive experience!
Before court starts, the populace generally assembles. A pathway in the seating is always kept open down the center of the seating for those holding court and those called before it to enter. To announce its start, a herald will announce the entrance of those holding court. If it is a royal court, this will mean the King and Queen. Upon this announcement, it is asked that we stand to show respect. If you have difficulty doing so, feel free to remain seated. As the soverigns pass, we generally bow, and then remain standing until the herald informs us that the populace is invited to be seated. If there are other parties that will be invited to sit at the front of court, they will then be invited to join in order of their standing.
Once court gets started, there is generally some opening remarks and then those sitting court will start with their business. In most cases, this involves giving awards recognition of activities including martial prowess, arts, sciences, or service. Keeping track of all the awards can be difficult at first, so if you’re curious, find someone to sit with that can explain. Other orders of business may include announcements of upcoming events or the need to fill an officer position.
In Calontir, we have a tradition in royal courts of presenting a gift to new members attending their first event. If you are attending such a court and the herald invites such newcomers forward, head to the central aisle in the seating and head to the front. As you get to the front row, bow and then stand or kneel in front of the court. Depending on the reign, they may or may not ask your name to introduce you to everyone. As you depart, bow again as you return to your seat.
At the end of the court, the herald will announce that the court is closing. Those holding court will then exit and as they do, we again stand and bow as they pass. There will often be a cry of “Long live the King” and the like, so feel free to join in!
At the end of the day, some events will feature a feast. Because of the extra expense of this, there will often be an extra fee, paid when you check in at the Gate to be able to participate.
For most feasts, they are arranged with tables of 4-6 people with a “head table” or two at the front for the royalty and their guests. Aside from these head tables, feel free to sit wherever suits you. Dinnerware (often referred to as “feast gear”) is not provided. So make sure you bring along a plate, bowl, utensils, a napkin, and a cup. If you don’t have anything suitable, there is often some available through the Gold Key officer in the barony.
Most feasts will have several “removes” which are essentially courses. The first ones will likely be bread, fruit, or other light items. This will progress to soups, entrees, and finally desserts. Because of all the food, it’s quite easy to eat too much in the early removes and have no room left by the time the entrees come around, so be sure to pace yourself!
If you have allergy or dietary concerns, ingredient lists are often posted online prior to the event, but if they’re not, ask your server and they will check with the kitchen. Due to the volume of things to be cooked, individual accommodations are often not possible, but check online to find out who the feast steward is prior to the event and they may be able to make sure there are some things you’ll be able to eat!
Depending on the length of the feast, there may be some scheduled entertainment. This might involve someone being invited to sing or tell a story for the populace. In most cases, there will be a toast. These are given by those of the most seniority, so don’t feel like you need to toast Their Majesties! Someone will already have this covered.
Did you enjoy the feast? If so, we have a common problem of making far too much food. As such, the kitchen often plans ahead with some large ziplock bags to take home some leftovers. If so, feel free to partake.
Once the feast is over, it is a good bet that there will be a lot of cleaning to do. If you have the energy, consider volunteering to help do dishes. It’s certain to be appreciated.
After an event, you can often find a less formal get-together being held. This is often at someone’s house where we take ourselves even less seriously. Here you can often find mundane board games, conversation, singing, and drinks. It can be intimidating walking into a stranger’s house for a party the first time, but be assured, you are welcome!