Baronial Border Wars Take Over Recreation Park

This past weekend the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) took over part of the city, taking participants in the event back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  Battles took place, archery competitions were held, and characters from the past came to life throughout the weekend.

Turning Back Time
SCA events aren’t like Renaissance fairs people associate walking around with a large drumstick while watching knights battle.  The society created isn’t meant to entertain. It’s meant to allow members to become characters, acting and dressing the part.

The international non-profit organization consists of 20 kingdoms and over 30,000 members worldwide.  Michigan belongs to the Middle Kingdom along with nearby states including Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and is the third oldest SCA kingdom, established in 1969.  

Locally, the Canton of Rimsholt group meets to practice with weapons, hosts and attends events, and welcomes those looking to obtain more information and become a new member.  The society’s members take on historical roles, researching individuals until one with a similar personality is found. They take on the name of the person and go by this name during events.  Those taking on leadership roles are given titles, which fit the lingo of the time, and wear medallions, special clothing, or other markers to indicate their role or status within the group.

A Living History
Groups step back into history with each kingdom ruled by a king – the winner of an actual battle.  Roles, terms, and items exist, which are likely quite foreign to someone unfamiliar with the time period.  But with a little help from current members, those interested in joining and participating in activities based on Middle Ages will find endless possibilities.  

Weekend events have local groups traveling regionally as well as to other states taking on their persona while reenacting battles, learning and practicing crafts of the time, and most of all having fun with people from around the state, region, country, and even the world.  

Martial activities during events include armor combat, rapier combat, archery, and thrown weapons.  In addition to taking on a name and persona, one can establish a house with an emblem. Clothing from the time in which a selected persona is also worn.  During combat, people put on armor sometimes weighing in excess of 30 pounds and use weapons of similar weight.

Battles are fought using marshalls as judges and the honor system when it comes to determining if a “fatal” blow has been received.  The competition is friendly but also serious. Minor injuries, bumps and bruises are not uncommon. Some battles are for fun while others are used to determine moving up or down in rank and overall honor within the society.  While some men and women participate in competitions, others can often be found doing crafts and sewing.  Merchants also set up tents to sell good and workshops are held to teach and demonstrate these arts during SCA events.

Stepping Into Another Time
Those who enjoy events such as Renaissance festivals but are interested in recreating the lifestyle as a participant are encouraged to get information from SCA or Grand Rapids’ local group.  Being part of the group fosters friendships, competition, history, and more through participation rather than observation.  

This is the second year the Baronial Border Wars event has taken place in Lowell.  A special thanks to Eva vanOldebroek of Rimsholt for the hospitality. For additional photos, please visit our Flickr album for this event.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that both men and women participate in the competitions.


  1. Many of the fighters in the photos featured in this article are women. I just want to make sure that people who read about the sca know that men and women fight against and alongside each other.

  2. During my short time at the event there were many things I noticed, we’re pointed out to me, and I’m sure not seen at all. This article is meant as a brief glimpse at the event and organization behind it. It’s impossible to cover every aspect of such an event and organization with multiple layers of complexity. No ill intent was meant by stating women were ‘sewing and crafting’.

  3. Amanda Schrauben,did you not notice all of the women in armor who weren’t “sewing and crafting”.

    • Carol Sanford, how would she know they were women? In armor, most fighters look the same from the sidelines.
      Amanda tried really hard to get a fair and accurate overview of the event for people not familiar with the SCA. This is a really complex organization, and it’s almost impossible to get every detail right without years of experience. I think she did a really good job at getting things as “right” as she could in such a short study.

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