Medieval times welcomes all

By Amelia Moore

“This all started 20 years ago when me and some friends of mine liked to go out on the Quad and hit each other with sticks,” explains Gregg Larson, the founder of the Numenor realm of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society. Numenor is the society’s name for Urbana, and its name for Larson is “Kegg.”

A few weeks ago, I attended “Octoberfest,” a three-day event hosted by Numenor in the Forest Glen Park District outside of Westville, Ill., with more than 700 participants. These kids know how to play.

Kegg has created an entire business from his interest in the Belegarth Society. His company provides a variety of full-contact foam weapons and armor for fighters. The company’s popularity is apparent as one surveys the battlefield; there are more than 250 people on each side facing each other with looks of biting disdain gracing their painted and mud-splattered faces.

“This is growing into a big counter-culture organization,” “Kegg” said. With more than 100 realms in the U.S. and such a large turnout at Octoberfest, you can tell he’s not bluffing.

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“We’re kind of like the violence fairies,” he says. “We bring it all around the country.”

While the main objective of the Medieval Combat Society is fighting in a medieval setting with foam weapons, the organization goes much deeper than that. People are really helpful and friendly here, like a titanic surrogate family. There are babies in strollers and couples kissing on hay stacks, gnomes walking around offering roasted meat on skewers to people who look bored, and a lot of people laughing and just having a relaxing Saturday afternoon.

I am blessed with strange, fire-lit visions. Guided by “Talyn Zun,” a friend of mine from a photography class, I walk along a stone path shining white under the moon, in between the tall trees of the forest preserve. Soon, we arrive at a bonfire with seven drummers beating out tribal rhythms for belly dancers who circle the fire.

After this adventure, I head back to the Numenor camp with “Talyn Zun” to talk with “Kegg.” His 10-year-old daughter, Beth, or “Libertatia,” sits on his lap beside a fire inside of an open castle fa‡ade. She is draped in a long white cape with beautiful blue eyes that glow from the light of the fire. Out of curiosity, I ask the two how long Beth has been involved in these gatherings. They get into a discussion that concludes with, “I was four at Armageddon, Dad.”

“Yeah, but you only stayed for one night,” he responds.

“C’mon Dad, I slept on a shield,” she says (Don’t worry; the shields are made of foam, too).

‘Libertatia’ seems to be the humble princess of Numenor.

“She’s been here forever,” “Talyn Zun” says. “She could kick any of our asses, but her Dad won’t let her fight until she’s 16. When she goes out there, though, you know she’s going to own that battlefield.”

“Libertatia” is more than familiar with the Belegarth Society. First, she shows me how the foam weapons are made from scrap materials in the weapons tent and then she tries to explain the different realms and how everything works around here. She is the beginning of a third generation being welcomed into the Society and the future for Numenor.

As I leave the darkened forest preserve, all the members of Numenor give me a final hail and a last sip out of the cider jug.

I make my way through a homemade castle, and a feast line lit by torches is still brimming with hungry Orcs and Goblins. The immortal words of Peter Pan taking Wendy away to Neverland resonate in my head:

“Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown-up things again.”

It is a bit of a downer to have to leave this friendly, fighting fantasy world to go back to Green Street and a traditional campus Saturday night, but at least I know that I’m welcome back to try my hand at fighting Wednesday afternoon.


Slideshow Media Credit:

Amelia Moore The Daily Illini

1. (bottom)’Bhakdar’ Peter Erickson, 22, of Ames, IL and ‘Sir Morpheus’ Danny Hover of Bloomington, IL wrestle for a sword when all other weapons have been cast aside during a one on one fight Saturday afternoon at ‘Octoberfest’ for the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society in Westville, IL.

2. Jen Weber a senior in History through Western University and ‘Sir Nolen’ Ed Stasheff a graduate student from Western University stare at eachother in the light of a bonfire in Forest Glen Park District on Saturday night, October 7, 2006.

3. ‘Snot Belly’ Rich Nicols, 23, of Nashville, TN beats conga drums by the fireside at ‘Octoberfest’ Saturday outside of Westville, IL.

4. ‘Keg’ Gregg and his daughter, ‘Libertatia’ Elizabeth Larson sit next to a fire keeping warm during Saturday night of Octoberfest in Forest Glen Park District of Westville, IL. “We’re kind of like the violence fairies. We bring it all over the country,” Gregg Larson said.

5. ‘Jesus’ Ian Lippold a 19-year-old from Cedar Falls, Iowa sits ‘dead’ on the battlefield late Saturday evening after losing two arms fighting and finally being stabbed in the stomach.

6. Members of Black Company discuss strategy before competing in the final round of the ‘Ten Man Tournament’ which promoted a new sport spawning from Belegarth called HACS, Historic Armored Combat Society.

7. ‘Squirm’ or Chelsey Dohman a freshman in FAA at Hartland Community College in Bloomington, IL bellydances next to a bonfire on Saturday night at the Medieval Combat Societies ‘Octoberfest’.

8. The last crowd gathers for one final battle while the sun sets in Forest Glen Park District on Saturday evening at Belegarth’s ‘Octoberfest’ outside of Westville, IL.