Local group takes Balloon Festival back to medieval times

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AUBURN — While a costumed Lady practiced her medieval harmonies at the front of the camp, Blacksmith Jack Harrill of Bingham kept rhythm of his own at the back, hammering at the glowing iron.

He used to do it for a living, he said.

“I did it for about 15 years, and then I got old,” he said. “Now, I just do what I want.”

He was one of the 60 or so medieval re-enactors expected at the camp in Auburn’s Bonney Park on Saturday and one of the 18 sleeping there each night through the Great Falls Balloon Festival.

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They are all members or guests of the Riding of Ravensbridge, and members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. SCA members lead dual lives, a mundane one that includes smartphones, Facebook, automobiles and electricity; and a medieval one comprised of lords, ladies, swords and heralds.

The Riding of Ravensbridge is the special guest of this year’s Great Falls Balloon Festival. They’re inviting the public to visit their encampment in Bonney Park all weekend, and will be venturing across the bridge several times each day to stage battles in the center of Simard-Payne Park.

Fully-armored “heavy list” battles were scheduled at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and again at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday. A fencing demonstration, with lighter weapons and armor, happened at noon Saturday.

The Society for Creative Anachronism began in California in the 1960s — a good-natured protest against the 20th century. It grew from a few sparse festivals and celebrations to kingdoms in every corner of the globe — including a floating shire aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S Nimitz.

Members work to re-create the lives of people that would have lived in Europe between 700 and 1600 A.D. as accurately as they can in the 21st century.

The Eastern Kingdom, which runs from Delaware to Prince Edward Island, Canada, began in 1968. The kingdom is divided into 72 smaller groupings — shires, baronies, provinces and cantons.

Ravensbridge is a fairly new addition to Maine’s SCA universe. Until a year ago, the group was just a part of the Province of Malagentia, which covers much of Southern Maine. Maine itself is broken into four groupings, like Malagentia. Those larger groups can be subdivided into smaller ones, like Cantons, Shires or — in this case — Ridings.

“That’s what we are,” said Dave Poulin, deputy Senechal for the group. “A Riding is a subgroup of a Province.”

It includes the Twin Cities, running roughly from Oxford to Topsham and north to Augusta, said Poulin, who answers to the name Antony Martin of Sheffield in his SCA life.

Cece Hunter of Auburn, who goes by Lady Rose Coppersteel in the SCA world, said the northern part of Malagentia simply grew enough to merit a new group.

“There were enough of us going down to Portland or up to Bangor for events, so we decided, why not form a group up here?” she said.

It’s an inviting, friendly group.

“It’s the neat thing about the SCA, you can take a break and be in the mundane world,” she said. “And when you come back, you remember people and meet new ones. You are welcomed back like family. We are an interesting, eclectic little group. We have everything from doctors to lawyers to cashiers at Wal-Mart — that’s me.”

In the SCA world, they all have other interests — and they’re planning to share them this weekend with festival-goers. In addition to the battles, performers will be playing medieval music, demonstrating medieval crafts and talking about medieval arts and science.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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