By Sir Guillaume “I Shinbalds” de la Belgique, Guest Contributor
There are plenty of dirty jobs at Pennsic to go around, but on Wednesday evening, when the rain began to fall at midnight, the war became a dirty job for everyone. There were tents drenched, costumes soaked, and camps flooded in the wee hours of the morning. But one of the hallmarks of this war is that when something like that happens, everyone steps up: the War staff, the people of Cooper’s Lake, and all of us who’ve come for the week, to do the wet, muddy, dirty job of keeping the camp standing. What might have been a disaster became an opportunity for acquaintances made and friendships strengthened. It gave us all a tiny taste of the sort of dirty work that goes on all over Pennsic.
It has been my honor this week to get to know the folks who do some of the dirty jobs of Pennsic but I know I’ve only scratched the surface. In fact, my single regret is that we only had a week to profile these tasks and the people who do them. Pennsic’s “dirty jobbers” are far too numerous to name. The fact is, everyone who volunteers, from the folks who work for a few hours at the troll booth, right up to Mayor John von der Velde himself, is likely to be sweaty, filthy and tired at the end of their shift.
It’s easy to overlook just how much work goes into making Pennsic happen. By the most recent calculations, the official staff of the war—that is, the folks who were camping out here a week or more before the first attendee showed up for land grab—numbers 135 people. Those hard-working folks are supported by about 2,000 other volunteers, all of whom give up some or all of their summer vacation time so those of us who come to fight, learn, create, shop and party with friends can have a war to enjoy. And the most amazing thing is just how easy they make it look—because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in exploring Pennsic’s dirty jobs, it’s that making the war look “effortless” takes a lot of effort.
If you have the opportunity as you’re beginning your break-down in the next day or so, take a moment to acknowledge the hard-working Pennsic staff. Give a wave to the team of Dukes Michael, Valharic, Cuan, and their ducal deputies who maintain the watch and have given up a lot of sleep to keep the campground friendly and safe. Wish a good day to Baroness Anna and her staff who, in heat or rain, are waiting at Information Point to answer all of our questions, from how to navigate the campground to where you can find emergency dentistry services nearby. Give a shout-out to all the safety staff at Chirurgeon’s point, led by James “Hawk” Galloway (who, I suspect you’ll be glad to know, only had to break out his biohazard suit once during the war—really!). Shoot a smile at Lord Gregor “Tree” McLey and his gang in the technical services tent. They’ve been surveying, digging, plumbing, and wiring since early July, and they’ll be on site for almost another week after all the rest of us are safe (and cool!) at home with all of our garb washed and our armor polished.
And finally, raise a cup at your camp to toast the many, many people who go on working behind the scenes to get the war going and keep it running. It’s a phenomenal effort of volunteerism and personal sacrifice that, frankly, is almost unheard of in the modern world—and perhaps that’s part of what makes Pennsic so magical.
I’ve noticed one thing as I’ve explored the dirty jobs of Pennsic this week: Everyone who does this sort of work is reluctant (sometimes obsessively so) to be recognized for their efforts. “Please don’t write about me. There are other people who work a lot harder than I do,” is a statement I’ve heard from just about everyone I’ve interviewed, even people drenched with rain, dripping sweat, and covered with mud, grease and paint. But the truth is, our dirty jobs series has proved that while the work that’s done to make Pennsic happen can be messy and exhausting, the jobs themselves bring a great deal of reward. Everyone who works toward putting on the war has the satisfaction of seeing their efforts enjoyed by the thousands of attendees at the event, and the joy of making new friends in the process of getting all the work done. Viscount Edward said it best: “Pennsic and the SCA have become my family, and (doing these jobs) is a way to give something back to my family.”
So on behalf of everyone at Pennsic, let me conclude our series by simply saying “thank you” to the whole war staff. By doing the dirty jobs of Pennsic, you’ve made this a very beautiful week for us all.
Editing Guillaume’s writing might be considered a “dirty job” in itself, but he would like to thank the Pennsic’s media liaisons, THLs Jacquetta de Mehun and Bonita of Steltonwald, and the staff of the Pennsic Independent who worked with him and the SCA’s Office of Media Relations in the creation of this series. You can follow along with more of Guillaume’s SCA adventures in his books, We Are Not Amused, Sir Guillaume, and Here Comes The Reign, both available in Ceridwen’s Closet in merchant’s row, space 074, or through his website www.SirGuillaume.com.