PROSPECT, Maine — A battle raged at the Fort Knox State Historic Site as two men feinted and parried Saturday afternoon, their weapons flashing in the sunlight.
Though the 19th century fort never had a shot fired upon it in anger, during the ninth annual Medieval Tournament, all bets were off as members of the Society for Creative Anachronism held rapier duels, fencing melees and shot ancient ballista siege weapons toward the bright blue Penobscot River.
One fencer, Steve Wright of Unity, said that he enjoyed showing off his skills for the many spectators who thronged the fort.
“When I’m at a tournament, I’m there to stomp someone into the ground and win,” he said. “I come to events like this to have fun.”
In many ways, he said, the tournament at Fort Knox acts as a big recruitment drive for Maine branches of the society, which is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. There are more than 30,000 members worldwide who live in 19 kingdoms. This event is held in the Shire of Endewearde, a branch of the East Kingdom that comprises much of the central and eastern portions of Maine.
Lady Aneleda Falconbridge, otherwise known as Monique Bouchard of Old Town, wore a long linen gown and a big smile under her white veil as she welcomed newcomers to the gathering.
“It seems like it’s going really well,” she said. “It’s busy, and it’s an uncommonly beautiful day.”
Last year, more than 2,000 people came to the event, and, though organizers said they wouldn’t have final numbers until Sunday, Leon Seymour of the Friends of Fort Knox said that he anticipated it would be the most well-attended one-day event this season.
The nonprofit group he heads has a mission to preserve the fort and to enhance its educational, cultural and economic value for the people of Maine, and was essentially hosting the medieval tournament, he said.
“We want to promote the groups and use the fort as a venue and a resource for the entire region,” he said. “The byproduct is that people get to experience one of the best-preserved seacoast fortifications in America.”
Etienne Desrosiers, 9, of Unity carried a bow and wore a cape as he scampered about the fort.
“It’s awesome,” he said, adding that his favorite event so far was “the tournaments when the guys fight.”
Katina Fuller of Steuben attended for the first time with her young son, Mark Allen Fuller, who seemed beside himself with all the medieval pageantry happening around him.
“It’s very nice. It’s educational,” she said. “It’s an interest that he has. And obviously, he’s pretty excited.”
The participants seemed pretty excited, too, as they plied their specialty crafts and spoke about them to anyone who wandered by.
Lord Godric of Hamton — otherwise known as Raymond Sprague of Bangor — carefully fletched a replica of an authentic war arrow.
“This is something they would have carried at the Battle of Agincourt,” he said.
Max Gunn, also called John Wilson of East Waterboro, showed off the fancy “pavilion” that would have been used by royalty during hunts. It featured a bed, a leather and wood writing box and other graceful amenities.
“They lived in plush luxury,” he said.
Visitor Heather Saucier of Bucksport, who had stopped by the pavilion, seemed impressed by what she saw at the tournament and what she was learning about medieval times.
“It’s exhilarating,” she said.
For Bouchard, the significance of the day — Sept. 11 — wasn’t forgotten. “It’s a good day to be a community of people,” she said. “On this particular day — it’s a good reminder. It’s hopeful.”