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The Dark Ages have returned to McCollum Park


Combatants face off at McCollum Park every Sunday.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Care to return to the Dark Age and Renaissance years of yore when chivalry and heroics on the battlefield – not to mention rescuing damsels in distress – was the cultural norm?

With few exceptions (not even the Super Bowl could stop participants), the Dark Ages – the years between 476 and about 1500 – spring to life every Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. in the “Land of Gypsy Hollow,” otherwise known as the ye olde Martha Lake area.

There, spectators can ogle men, and some women, from Puget Sound, but mostly from Mill Creek and the surrounding area, who gather under the trees of the northwest grid of McCollum Park to show off their medieval bad selves.

Always mindful of safety first, the re-enactors dash through their half-mile domain to battle on the hills, the woods and the bushes as they gamely display their athletic skills, battling each other with colorful combat weapons.

Made from Styrofoam, of course.

Spectators gape as Dark Ages fighters robed in elaborate, era-appropriate garb and 30 pounds of armor, including gladiatorial-dented shields, duel each other with their elongated Styrofoam longswords.

In the BCE (Before Common Era) and early ACE (After Common Era), it was an honor to fight with such shiny armaments, as in those days of yore only aristocracy was permitted to use such an extended weapon.

As with the armored fighters in the late BCE and the early ACE, these modern-day combatants arrive from their numerous drizzle-filled kingdoms to join in the jousting activities. Men and women gather from around the 7 Lands of the Kingdom of Northern Lights – that is, from Mill Creek, Everett, Longview, Centralia, Lacey, Tacoma and Redmond, among other locales.

Reading over the International AMTGARD’s game (version 8.0) rule book (AMTGARD is a world-wide organization dedicated to medieval and fantasy combat sports and recreation), you’re advised this is a “swords and sorcery styled medieval combat, culture and sciences organization.”

According to Alexander Banks ( combat name: “Vaughn”), who has been competing for over 10 years, this type of activity began in 1983 in El Paso, Texas, and within a few years had spread to the lands where U.S, service men and women were stationed.

He said that, depending on the Sunday, there can be between 20 and 75 contenders at McCollum Park. About 20 percent are women, and the age group is from age 14 to those in their mature years. Those under 17 need written permission from a guardian, who must remain on scene.

The educational level of the contenders ranges from high school sophomores to those with master’s degrees and beyond.

Alexander said he enjoys the safe competition while developing the diverse skills necessary to battle with various weapons: bows and arrows, long and short swords and combat shields, all while also continuously expanding his strategy skills.

It’s not just all play.

AKA Vaughn enjoys aerobic exercise by dancing, running, jumping and ducking while moving his feet and arms and thrusting and withdrawing his weapons. These cardiovascular exercises help this warrior reduce stress and lose the extra pounds he puts on after feasting all week.

To some, this weekly gathering may sound ridiculous.

But ask yourself: Is it any more or less ridiculous than grownup men and women coming together – without any exercise – to play out fantasy sports or fantasy political election games?


Chuck Wright is a columnist and freelancer for The Beacon.


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