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Medieval reenactment group to hold festival


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CEILIDH INGHEAN Donnachaidh, also known as Karen Mallum, spins wool into yarn at a previous Society for Creative Anachronism event. Mallum is a member of the local Ironwood area group called Hvitskogar, the old Icelandic word for "white woods."

IRONWOOD - John Salazar spends most days as an employee at a manufacturing company in Ironwood, but this weekend he will fight in armored combat for the honor of his shire, Hvitskogar, as Lord Marcial de Salas.

The shire of Hvitskogar lies within the boundary of the Kingdom of Northshield. The area is more commonly known as North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as well as Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario in Canada.

Salazar is a member of the Ironwood chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to medieval reenactment between the years 600 and 1600.

According to the SCA's website, the group's "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms with more than 30,000 members in countries around the world.

SCA events typically showcase various tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, as well as classes and workshops, all with members dressed in Middle Ages and Renaissance period clothing.

But the events aren't like a Renaissance fair, Salazar said.

"Ren fairs are usually for spectators, it's where people come and see stuff," he said. "The SCA is all hands-on education."

It's also not like LARP, Live Action Role Playing, which is based more in fantasy, Salazar said, "Plus when we fight it actually hurts."

Members wear armor, made of leather or metal, with some even donning a full knight's suit.

Weapons, such as swords, are made from rattan, similar to bamboo, but solid rather than hollow.

Salazar said there are about 12 regular members in the Ironwood group, which meets on Fridays to learn about the medieval world.

"We do everything from rapier fighting, armored combat fighting, all manner of arts and crafts, fiber arts, a lot of music, a lot of singing, culinary arts," he said. "Basically everything that pertained to everyday medieval life we recreate."

Salazar started out as a sword fighter about seven years ago with a local fencing club, then got asked to attend an SCA event in Ashland, Wis.

The Ironwood chapter started forming itself about the same time, officially being recognized by SCA as a full-status shire.

"There is a forming group, which society recognizes that you're trying to start something," Salazar said. "There's village status, which is under another group's supervision – you're really getting your officers together, you're setting up bank accounts and stuff like that, getting everything going – then there's full-status shire. We actually got that earlier this year."

The shire's name, Hvitskogar, is old Icelandic for white woods, Salazar said, a nod to the group members' SCA personas and the territory of Ironwood.

"In the SCA you take on a persona so you can try to recreate certain time periods, certain culture." Salazar said. "And given the high number of viking and scandinavian personas, we chose to give the group a scandinavian name, and well given the area is covered in snow three-quarters of the year, if not more, we chose white woods."

The group will hold its annual event "Over the River and In the Woods-Part Tree" on Saturday.

Salazar said he hopes to see other SCA groups from Marquette, Houghton, Duluth, Minn., Ashland and Wausau, Wis., attend the event, which will feature armored combat, dancing, medieval trivia and other challenges.

"One of the main highlights of the evening is actually going to be the Rusty Blade Challenge," Salazar said. "It's a culinary competition between two groups. We actually have the Wausau and the Marquette groups competing for us this year."

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Ironwood Township hall gymnasium.

There is a $5 site charge, $5 for lunch, and the feast will cost $10.

For those planning on attending, and participating, people are asked to dress in appropriate clothing, or garb, to help maintain the event's energy.

"Some of the garb that people make is just outstanding," Salazar said. "The work that people put into it; they are museum quality replicas. It all depends on how much you want to get into it. The level of artistry that you get to see in the SCA is mind blowing sometimes."

SCA is free to play, but a yearly membership fee of $45 allows participants the right to fight and be fought for in crown tournaments, which decide who will be king and queen. It also allows the person the ability to serve as an officer of a group.

The Ironwood shire is open to anyone of any age.

"If you're interested in arts and crafts, hands-on woodworking, leather-working, metalworking, stuff like that, we have a lot of very talented people in our group that can show you that," Salazar said.

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