Northern Plains group passionate about Middle AgesMITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — There are days when Melissa Wobig goes by a different name, a more elegant name from an age long past.
By: CHRIS MUELLER,The Daily Republic, Associated Press
MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — There are days when Melissa Wobig goes by a different name, a more elegant name from an age long past.
Clothed in a plain dark dress, a white headdress and simple jewelry, Wobig, going by the name Isabella Beatrice della Rosa, or "Belle," watched in quiet awe as the kingdom of Northshield crowned its newest king and queen Saturday at the Davison County Fairgrounds in Mitchell.
Northshield, which includes South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan's upper peninsula, and a nearby part of Canada, is just one of 18 kingdoms around the world that comprise the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group dedicated to studying and recreating the Middle Ages. The SCA began in 1966 in California.
"The focus of the SCA is to bring to life the better aspects of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance," Wobig told the Daily Republic newspaper in Mitchell (http://bit.ly/XCw3Wu ).
Wobig, a resident of Rochester, Minn., has been with the SCA for 18 years.
In her role as the group's chatelaine — a title used for a mistress of a castle or large household — Wobig helps acclimate new members into the group by helping them choose their character, decide on a costume and other accessories, and answer any other questions new members may have. It's a role she's extremely passionate about.
"I love seeing how people can really get into their character and become someone from the Middle Ages," she said. "They just don't get to read about history. They get to do it."
Members of the group are free to study and act out whatever aspect of the period's culture most appeals to them from dance, clothing and art, to armored combat and other forms of martial arts.
"Anything you can think of that they made or did in the Middle Ages," she said, "we have people who know how to do that and are willing to teach others."
At Saturday's event, more than 150 people from across Northshield gathered in Mitchell to see Chantal St. Claire, going by the name Lusche della Cassiago, and Jayson Chapman, going by the name Morgan Olander, both of St. Paul, Minn., be crowned Northshield's newest king and queen. It's a ceremonial event that happens just once every six months.
"We try to make the transitions interesting," Wobig said. "They're always peaceful transitions."
The transition itself may be peaceful, but the heir to throne is always determined on the edge of a sword, spear or any other manner of medieval weaponry.
"It's last person standing," she said. "Whoever wins the tournament becomes heir to the throne."
The combat, though fast and aggressive, is always done with safety in mind.
"We basically say we hit people hard enough to kill them but not hard enough to hurt them," said Terry Glidden, of Rochester, Minn., going by the name Theodward L'Archier.
Fighters sport a wide variety of armor from the period, which actually serves as protection during the fully unchoreographed one-on-one brawls.
"He doesn't know what I have planned," Glidden said of the combat. "Sometimes I don't even know what I have planned."
For the less bloodthirsty, members can focus on many other aspects of medieval culture.
David Horvath, of Fargo, N.D., going by the name Duke Tarrach Alfson, the second king of Northshield, wrote a peer-reviewed paper on a specific type of armor he studied and used as part of the SCA.
"The papers that were written on it were by people who hadn't actually made it or used it," he said. "And it was way off. You learn so much more by using it."
The amount of time a person spends creating their character's costume, working on his or her skills, or studying medieval culture varies, Wobig said, as the group has no requirements in that regard.
"They just want to come to an event and forget the real world for a while and have some fun," she said.
For some, the enjoyment comes simply from dressing up and getting together with friends.
"If I'm wearing fun clothes, I'm having a good time," said Gretchen Burnham, of Bloomington, Minn., going by the name Marwen della Rivere.
Burnham, who has been with the group for 20 years, said the friendships made within the group keep people coming back.
"I get to wear fun dresses and pretty stuff," she said, "and over time it becomes your family."
Dan Long, of Appleton, Wis., going by the name Grimmund, Baron of Windhaven, agrees.
"Mostly, it's the friendships and the relationships between people," he said. "It is a big extended social network."
Elizabeth Colton, of Rochester, Minn., stepped down as queen of Northshield during Saturday's event.
"It was actually really emotional," she said. "We've been working on this for probably the last year."
Wobig, whose smile seemed never to disappear from her face on Saturday, even met her husband through the SCA.
"These people end up being my family," she said. "I have met so many great friends here."
Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com