DOWAGIAC — The Wayback Machine was set at full throttle Saturday at Southwestern Michigan College.
The college’s third annual Renaissance Faire brought students and community members together for a day of fun, food and learning about the Renaissance period and medieval times.
The fair, established in 2017, as a way to introduce new students to the opportunities and experiences that go along with college life.
Activities on tap during the fair included everything from bag pipes, belly dancing and jousting, to Shakespearean insults, “trebuchet” medieval style catapults, knife and ax throwing and falconry. Rounding out the medieval theme were the many visitors and participants who chose to dress in full period costumes.
Fred Rogers of Niles was among those in costume Saturday, wearing a kilt as he strolled the grounds behind the Student Activity Center playing the bagpipes. He enjoys both bagpipes and historical re-enacting, playing with the South Bend-based Caledonia Kilty Pipe Band and belonging to the Niles-based Support the Fort organization.
“It’s a musical hobby,” Rogers said in reference to his bagpipes. “I heard them someplace when I was younger and then learned that I was part Scottish. I also play the clarinet and bagpipes are mix of oboes and clarinets. Besides playing with the band, I do four or five funerals every year and do several memorials for the Goshen police department.”
For him, taking part in a Renaissance fair is about both the music and the history.
“I look at it from a historical point of view,” he said. “Amidst all the hijinks and fun is history.”
As for the jousting, members of the Sentinels of the Rose came once again to entertain fair-goers. Members Nicholas Kuntzman, Caleb Smith, Kyle Kelly and Mollie Grabemeyer hail from Kalamazoo, South Bend and Dowagiac and perform at Renaissance fairs throughout the region every summer.
“We do educational, full contact and cutting demonstrations,” Kuntzman said. “We love the performing and the history. I’ve been doing it since I was 11 and watched the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. That turned me onto martial arts and after the Army, I went back to this. I love medieval times and I love pretending.”
As he noted in one of their presentations to visitors, the equipment itself requires people to be fairly strong as the helmets they wear weigh 20 to 25 pounds and a full set of armor can weigh 75 pounds.
Grabemeyer is a SMC graduate and still works at the college. She got involved after Kelly, who taught at SMC at the time, asked her if she wanted to be the announcer and she’s been doing it ever since.
“I don’t armor up, I’m the referee for the matches,” she said. “I go out to stand up for women. I have the power to say when to stop and start.”
Like Kuntzman, she said she used to go to Renaissance fairs when she was younger and was also inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Bob Lane of Kalamazoo came for the first time this year with the Harrow Vikings group who brought everything from ax and knife throwing and games to a replica kitchen and the pillage and plunder shop to the event.
“We enjoy the history but it’s mainly about getting together and meeting people,” he said.
Jessica Brockman and Jon Richcreek of the Lake Milton Raptor Center near Jones brought their birds of prey again this year. People came to their tent to look at their Eurasian eagle owl, Cooper’s hawk, red tail hawk and Kestrel falcon. The Eurasian eagle owl has a 6-foot wing span and looks similar to the great horned owl.
“We do educational programs at schools, libraries and parks and even birthday parties,” Richcreek said. “Falconry is the oldest sport in the world and has been used for thousands of years. In medieval times, it was associated with royalty. Today, people come to see us because they love the birds.”