by Lord Stephan Calvert deGrey
Asst. Editor, Pennsic Independent
If it were not for various bouts of mundania, this would be my twentieth Pennsic. I was squired right down the road from here in a small camp at the corner of Low and Chandler's back at Pennsic XV in what is now humorlessly called E02 and was gladly taken into my knight's household. It was my first Pennsic and I had been in the SCA for about two years. My sword brother had been my best friend since we were nine and he was the one who brought me into this barely controlled insanity.
The War was a lot smaller then. There was no Serengeti. Dragon Trace was where the parking lot started. My kingdom (AEthelmearc) didn't even exist then, not even in anyone's imagination. The Woods Battle was fought down by the Bog. There might have been 2500 people onsite and most came on Friday and left on Sunday. We fenced in a thunderstorm and hid under the shade of the trees. Like many others at their first Pennsic before and since, I met a cute girl. The next year she was my wife. Nineteen years and two children later, she still is, and our youngest is best known for crashing an ice wagon down the very hill where his parents first found their love for each other.
Some things don't change. Some things do. Today, the War is not small. We now have over 11,000 people here at Pennsic scattered among eighteen (and soon to be nineteen) kingdoms. The War is now on officially neutral ground. Instead of a couple of dozen merchants we have over three hundred. The most splendiferous camps of Pennsic XV would be hopelessly primitive by today's standards and the constructions of today would marvel our forebears and the people we were twenty years ago. We've grown and matured far beyond what anyone could have imagined back in A.S. XXI. I'm no longer a bright-eyed idealistic young squire. Somewhere along the way I turned into what is commonly referred to as a "dinosaur." I don't even know how it happened. It happened to my wife and a lot of my friends as well. It will probably happen to a lot of you, too.
The SCA is a medieval re-creation society. It says so right there in Corpora. Many, if not most of us have done some rather impressive work in this regard wherever we have traveled. Many of us have traveled far but still we are all drawn here, like moths to a flickering tiki torch. So I'm forced to ask myself, what makes this place different? What makes this place special?
We have our own local events in hundreds of places scattered over five continents (six if you count Southern Wastes) but why do so many of us come here every August? It's certainly not the weather. Western Pennsylvania in summertime can often be a bizarre cross between west Texas, south Florida and Mount Olympus with scorching heat, oppressive humidity and godlike thunderstorms.
Although we may be a re-creation society this is not the place where we simulate history. This is the place where we make our own. Every single one of the tens of thousands of us who has ever been here has done their share in making this place special. Events that have happened here have become legend. Many of us have been fortunate enough to see and participate in some of those legends. I remember seeing the Ansteorran Army singing "Non Nobis" while leaving the Field Battle fourteen years ago. I remember cheerfully marching to certain doom in another Field Battle where the entire Knowne Worlde fought against us for the honor of the brave queen whose name now adorns Pennsic's most prominent hill. I remember being chased out of the Woods Battle by a bee swarm. I remember seeing many of my closest and dearest friends elevated to the Peerage here, several of them last year alone. Some of my friends are no longer with us, forever ensuring their status as legends. Some of yours probably aren't either. I remember music and dancing and fighting and drinking and drumming until four in the morning and wondering what bargains I can get on Wednesday nights. All of you do too.
We think about it all year long. That is why this place is special, some would even say sacred to us. Here, history isn't just what happened centuries ago in dusty books sitting in the library or on our bookshelves at home. Here, history is what we made. It is accessible to us. "There we were" isn't just the start of yet another tall tale, it is the living history of Pennsic made alive by all of us who have ever been here. We are as much a part of this place as this place is a part of each and every one of us.
All of us have created history in this magical place over the twenty-nine years Pennsic has been at Cooper's Lake. When you step on the field or go to the merchants or sit in a court or go to a party or look at the dancers or any of the countless varied things you can't do the same way anywhere else, remember that you are making more history. You are creating the history and legends of tomorrow. When you live the dream, dream big, then go out and do better. Someone will remember.