I arrived at the Indiana Renaissance Faire on the morning of Oct. 6, 2018 and found a section of the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center transformed from a spillover parking lot into a small tent city.
Peasants from both the 1500s and the modern day sloshed around me in the deep troughs of mud that had been carved through the (previously) dirt footpaths, the straw laid down on top of the muck doing little to prevent a thick layer of gunk from building up on my boots as they sank into the earth with each step.
The recently-erected, anachronistic town had been laid out in a circular fashion with a lengthy bazaar that ran straight through the middle. Merchants garbed in gambisons and tunics peddled wares that ranged from crystal necklaces to swords and axes. Along the perimeter was a slew of vendors selling food and drink. Period-appropriate choices such as turkey legs were a popular choice, and bottles of wine and mead were as readily available as craft beers. In keeping with the spirit of the event, I decided to order an Italian beef sandwich.
Farther in, crowds gathered in anticipation of various shows. Children and their parents watched a puppet show replete with high-pitched shouting and the bonking of heads. A raunchier show put on by a group of “comedy swordsmen” known as the Rogue Blades entertained with choreographed sword fights, a plethora of silly puns, and the humiliation of one audience member who was coaxed into an onstage marriage. The audience member did, however, refuse to suck the poison out of a wound inflicted by a toxic arrow.
A few hundred feet past an axe throwing stall in a shallow, sunken valley, hundreds of attendees had gathered around a large and narrow stretch of land similar in size to a football field that was cordoned off with lengths of rope and triangular, multi-colored flags. It was
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"] A knight receives help removing his helmet after the joust.[/caption]
there I heard the shouts of a large, bearded man through the speakers at each corner of the arena. Shane Adams, the captain and owner of the full-contact jousting team known as The Knights of Valour, was preparing the audience for what they were about to witness.
“These are real lances,” he exclaimed. “Everything you’re about to see is 100 percent authentic and non-choreographed. If you’re impaled by a broken lance, you can keep it as a souvenir.”
The jousters, wearing full plate armor, mounted their massive horses, grabbed their lances, and charged. They passed each other multiple times, sometimes without so much as gently scratching one another. On the passes where a jouster was hit, those real lances exploded into fabulous eruptions of splintery shrapnel. As far as I know, no audience members were impaled.
After the jousting match had finished, I spoke with Mr. Adams about his jousting team as he rested in the shade adjacent to a makeshift horse barn. Mr. Adams, who produced a television show about jousting on The History Channel called “Full Metal Jousting,” was unsurprisingly very passionate about the subject.
“I saw the Errol Flynn Robin Hood movie when I was four years old,” he said. “After that, I developed a fascination with knights in shining armor.”
This infatuation with knights led him to found the Knights of Valour in 1997. He’s been roaming North America with his band of mounted warriors ever since.
“We’ve had everyone from lawyers, nuclear engineers, scientists, and pro sports enthusiasts as part of our group,” he said. “It’s amazing how many different personalities and body types are drawn to jousting.”
Mr. Adams estimated that there are approximately 3,000 choreographed jousters in the world, and that only 20 full-contact jousters participate in the sport. When asked what sets the real deal knights apart from their choreographed counterparts, he said it was a matter of mettle.
“Heart sets them apart from the other 3,000 choreographed jousters. They hold fast to their dreams.”
Like the knights who dash toward one another at breakneck speeds with lances lowered, the Indianapolis Renaissance Faire is an event steeped in heart. Those in attendance are afforded the chance to cast aside their modern worries and hold fast to their dreams.