The Duke of Yamhill
Brian Elliot will trade his computer for chainmail for Saturday's medieval fair in Forest Grove, becoming fully armored as
People in Yamhill probably don't know it, but they are living alongside royalty.
Sure, they may have met Brian Elliot, who's been working as a computer consultant out of his old farmhouse on Highway 47, just south of the town's lone stoplight, for four years.
And they might recognize his wife, Amy, a respiratory therapist at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland.
But they likely don't know Duke Sir Amalric Blackhart and Duchess Caia Snowden - the Elliots' alter-egos in the Society for Creative Anachronism.
Elliot, who has donned medieval armor and fought other knights for nearly three decades, is one of the dozens of people who will bring Forest Grove back to the medieval ages when the Faire in the Grove comes to Pacific University this Saturday, April 26.
Elliot first became involved with the SCA when he stumbled into a medieval club meeting on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va.
He had previously been exposed to the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, but said it doesn't compare to what he's doing now - which includes unscripted (though heavily regulated) hand-to-hand battle with other SCA members.
'Where else can you put on armor and fight?' asked Elliot, who will be bringing his trusty hand-and-a-half metal sword to town Saturday. 'I get an adrenaline rush from fighting, and it helps to quench my desire to excel at something.'
SCA members strive to duplicate the way of life of the medieval ages. Members reenact battles, but also act as blacksmiths, merchants, archers and others who were part of the 16th century.
'We re-enact the best parts,' said Elliot, who notes that group members aren't so pure that they won't drive cars or avail themselves to other 21st century conveniences. Or, as he delicately puts it: 'People in the SCA would not trade modern plumbing to more accurately recreate a medieval lifestyle.'
While the SCA, which was founded in Berkeley, Calif., in 1966, has been ridiculed in the press (a 1998 Willamette Week article dismissed its members as 'freaks'), Elliot paints a much different picture of the society.
'The SCA is a social club where we get together and do things we enjoy as a type of escapism,' he said. 'There are things I've learned in the society that are rewarding.
'People might think shooting archery is weird,' he notes, 'but we really are mainly interested in gaining knowledge. So which is weirder, the lack of knowledge or the search for it?'
At one point during the interview, Elliot ran back into the house to retrieve one of his dueling swords. While medieval weapons have often been portrayed as heavy and cumbersome, he wanted to show that his can easily be lifted with one hand.
Martha Rampton applauds the SCA for teaching others about medieval times.
'I wish all my students had as much enthusiasm for history as the SCA members do,' said Rampton, a Pacific University history professor and founder of Faire in the Grove. 'The Middle Ages was such an exciting time that seems to spark the imagination of people of all ages. The Faire is a good opportunity to engage in a little bit of fantasy.'
Brian Elliot has been engaging in such fantasy for 27 years; Amy Elliot for 21.
The couple did not meet at an SCA event, but through a mutual friend who happened to be in the SCA. However, they began seeing each other at SCA events and began dating.
In fact, they once sat on thrones as the king and queen of An Tir, the SCA kingdom that incorporates Oregon, Washington and parts of Idaho and Canada.
Previously, they were royalty in Atlantia, a kingdom on the East Coast. It was by reigning over another kingdom that they earned their present titles of duke and duchess.
The Faire in the Grove is a much smaller demo than some of the other events the Elliots have participated in. The Pennsic War, for example, is a massive event held annually in Pennsylvania involving 14,000 members who stay in medieval garb for more than two weeks.
This weekend's demonstration, Elliot said, is more about educating the public and giving them a small taste of what the SCA is all about.
And, despite the whimsical names and the impressive weaponry, he said, the focus really is on history.
'I would say that most people in the SCA, including myself, would describe themselves as bland,' said Elliot. 'We are very studious about the Middle Ages - it would be hard to find a lack of intelligent, academic discussion at any of our events.'
The Elliots' sons, Phoenix, 6, and Gryphon, 8, are part of the society, although Elliot admits that many kids, as they get older, don't consider the SCA to be cool anymore.
'They enjoy seeing their friends at SCA events, but if they choose to play sports or do something else then I'll be driving them to their practice,' said Elliot.
For now, Elliot hopes his sons will have the same positive experience with the SCA that he had as a young adult.
'I was always reading hero books, and there aren't many chances to be a real-life hero unless maybe you are a firefighter,' he said. 'I should have found the SCA earlier.'
Fourth annual day-long fair is Saturday
This is the fourth year that the Pacific University History Department and the Shire of Dragon's Mist of the Society for Creative Anachronism have brought a day-long fair to Forest Grove.
This year's event will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 26.
At least 4,000 people are expected to attend the free event as Pacific's campus is transformed into a medieval village complete with demonstrations of fencing, archery, royal court protocol, medieval cooking, crafts, braiding, book-making and much more.
There will also be medieval crafts for sale and entertainment by various groups all day long, including singing, theater, dance and, of course, the day-long medieval fighting tournament where knights, lords and possibly some ladies will don their armor and battle in a variety of martial styles for prizes and honor on the field of combat.
This year's festivities will spill into the streets, literally, as organizers have received permission to block off a section of 21st Avenue to accommodate some local businesses and vendors.
'This events creates a connection between Pacific University and the larger community,' said Martha Rampton, professor of history at Pacific and founder of Faire in the Grove. 'The faire is educational, fun, and a good way to celebrate spring.'
For more information visit www.FaireInTheGrove.com.