In a sense, itís a scene from a "Monty Python" movie.
Watching knight and knaves do battle in Oak Grove Park is a little bit like the final scene of "The Quest for the Holy Grail," where modern police surround men dressed in medieval armor and begin to arrest them.
Juxtaposed between horseshoe throwers and Frisbee golfers, the Fargo chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is used to getting a couple of looks, even double-takes, now and then.
The group meets every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Oak Grove Park, dressed in self-made costumes. Ladies participate in belly dancing and music, while men don armor constructed of steel and padding and do combat on the park grounds.
Itís all in the name of fun, but itís also a serious matter. The SCA has more than 30 members here in Fargo-Moorhead, and has more than 35,000 members worldwide. Sam Swalley, a north Fargo resident, is actually the Prince of the Northshield Principality, a province that covers most of the upper Midwest and the greater part of North America, including territories in Canada and Michiganís Upper Peninsula.
Swalley, 30, became interested in the group while attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. At the age of 19, he was fresh out of the military, and was interested in the traditional combat used by the knights of Renaissance.
"The truth is, Iím just a great big ham inside," Swalley said. "Itís a group that spans three-fourths of the entire globe. They even have a very small group in Antarctica. I guess they really, really need hobbies down there."
It breaks down like this. Fargo, in SCA, is dubbed the shire of Korsvag. It is part of the Midwest Region, defined as the Northshield. Through his efforts, Swalley is now the Prince of the Northshield.
His efforts, of course, involve heavy arms combat. Wearing armor crafted by artisan and metal workers who are part of the group, the men, and some women, square off in battle. Swalley, whose SCA name is "Hroder Vigageirr Toreson" (notice the Scandinavian influence on the members of the Northshield), won his Coronet Tournament last year. For that reason, he is now royalty.
"I will actually be the last Prince of the Northshield. My heir will be name king, as the Northshield becomes its own kingdom," he said.
Of cource, somebody has to beat him, first.
Coronet Tournaments are help at "events," gatherings of SCA members that might resemble a little Renaissance Festival, complete with brewing, cooking, sewing, heraldry, calligraphy and more. Make no mistake, however, this isnít piggybacking with the event in Shakopee, Minn.
"However, I would guess that about 20 percent of the crew down there are SCA members at some level," Swalley said.
Events are help almost every weekend somewhere in the principality, and itís a chance for all members to catch up. Swalley said that on a quarterly basis, the principalities that cover most of North America will converge for a big weekend of SCA Activities.
"Itís the Middle Ages the way we would like to remember them," he said. "I think it takes all of the best things, with the chivalry and the honor. If Iím at an event and I drop my wallet in the middle of more than 1,000 people, I know that the person who finds it will return it to me. I donít even worry about it. Because that feeling of honor is such a big part of it."
Those interested in the Fargo-Moorhead chapter of SCA can just swing by a practice event on Tuesday nights at Oak Grove Park. The group assembles around 7 p.m., with battles and other activities at 7:30 p.m. Or, for more information, visit them online at www.korsvag.org, or email Robyn Quandt at Ravenna@korsvag.org.