P/cloudy
41°
P/cloudy
Hi 60° | Lo 38°

Family fun with jousting

Son and mother from New Salem take part in tilt at fest

  • "Sir Odric," Robert Earhart of Pennsylvania, hooks an outheld ring during a full armored joust by Roundtable Productions at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    "Sir Odric," Robert Earhart of Pennsylvania, hooks an outheld ring during a full armored joust by Roundtable Productions at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival on Sunday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jousters go for each other's shields during the presentation at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Jousters go for each other's shields during the presentation at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival in Montague on Sunday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • The "Sparks Fire Sprites" of the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival end their show with a roar of flames in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    The "Sparks Fire Sprites" of the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival end their show with a roar of flames in Montague on Sunday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Vixens En’Garde play out a Shakespearean fight scene at the Mutton and Mead Festival in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    The Vixens En’Garde play out a Shakespearean fight scene at the Mutton and Mead Festival in Montague on Sunday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • "Sir Odric," Robert Earhart of Pennsylvania, hooks an outheld ring during a full armored joust by Roundtable Productions at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Jousters go for each other's shields during the presentation at the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • The "Sparks Fire Sprites" of the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival end their show with a roar of flames in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • The Vixens En’Garde play out a Shakespearean fight scene at the Mutton and Mead Festival in Montague on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

MONTAGUE — Robert Earhart of Pennsylvania breaks a lance on the shield of New Salem resident Cristian Lett, who rolls off his horse, to the sound of cheers from a crowd of 500 or more spectators gathered around the ring at the center of the field. Cristian’s mother, Cristen Lett, 50, had just taken a similar loss.

The cheers are loud enough to be heard from the distant parking lot of the Millers Falls Rod and Gun Club.

This is the joust show, one of three scheduled during each day of the Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival and the vendors’ tents and demonstration areas around the field are temporarily quiet as most attendees gravitate to the joust.

Aiden and Hunter Latham, 9-year-old twins from Hatfield, jump and shout when Sir Angus — Paul Adams of New Jersey — is announced as the winner, after a quick ax and sword fight on foot with Earhart.

The joust show is put on by Roundtable Productions, owned by Earhart and Kate Hopkins, both 42, and with decades in the business. Hopkins, on horseback, directed the afternoon show and explained the goings-on to the audience while Earhart fought.

“It’s all fake,” said Earhart after the show, holding up his arm to show a wrist and finger wrapped in tape from a hit with a wooden club during a show on Saturday. The lances they break are made of balsa, a light wood, scored to shatter for effect, but that has it s dangers, too. Earhart offers a steel helmet, which weighs about 20 pounds and has the steel mesh from a fencing mask riveted in behind the eye slits to avoid a potentially lethal wood shard in the eye. Falling off a tall horse onto a grass field isn’t easy either, and Hopkins said theirs is one of the few companies willing to perform on temporary pitches. The shows are scripted, she said, but don’t often go according to plan.

The two from Pennsylvania travel the country with a cast that varies depending on who is nearby. For the Montague fair, they found the Lett family.

Cristian Lett, 20, started young. His mother said her son started training a horse for jousting when he was 10, and she went along when he wanted to build a swinging target to joust with. Now mother and son joust one another. This weekend was Cristen’s first time riding in a joust show. “I can tell you who’s hitting me the hardest: him,” Cristen said, indicating her son.

“It’s undeniably a rush,” she said of the jousting experience. Her parents were in the stands and another son, Hans, played the bagpipes while his sister, Aurianna, acted as a squire.

Cristian got his first chance at live jousting after Hopkins saw him riding and fighting with a sword group from the former Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester during the first year of the fair, and called him up once he turned 18.

“I always wanted to be a knight, since I was really young,” Cristian said. “My mission in life was to become a knight, so that’s what I did.” He joined an alphabet soup of medieval martial arts and performance groups and found his way into the Mutton and Mead show. Cristian said he wishes he could make a living with jousting, but has a day job as a gunsmith.

For Earhart and Hopkins, this is their day job. Hopkins said they’re on the road for six to eight months a year, touring from festival to festival and offering demonstrations at schools and other venues.

The show’s victor, Paul Adams, 38, of New Jersey, does sound work for theaters, rock shows and corporate events when he’s not fighting in armor, but said he has been performing at renaissance festivals since he was about 15. “Twelve to 15 years ago a friend said ‘Hey, you want to learn to ride a horse?’and it was a downward spiral ever since then,” Adams said.

Like Cristian, Hopkins said Adams fought on foot at fairs before he started jousting. Hopkins said that’s about the usual progression: “from being a renaissance fair performer to becoming a fighter to then deciding that riding a four-legged animal with a brain of its own and fighting is a brilliant idea.”

On the sidelines of the joust, the Latham twins were rooting for Sir Ian — Cristian — but they didn’t seem upset by his loss. Both said this was the first time they had seen jousting. Asked how it compared to the movies, Hunter was for the live version. “This. Easy-peasy choice,” he said.

This weekend was the fourth annual production of the Mutton and Mead Festival, a project of Pioneer Valley volunteer group the Knighten Guild as a fundraiser and food drive for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Montague Common Hall.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.