Boho at Pennsic

A temporary medieval city profiled by

For two weeks each summer, over 10,000 adults (and many children of all ages) come together to play make-believe.  They emerge from their cubicles and their desks and their workshops to spend two weeks camping out in western Pennsylvania.

Freiman the Minstrel and the Baron Alejandro fight a mighty duel. (Click through for video.)

They pretend that it is the Middle Ages as they Should Have Been. They pretend that they are white knights or rascals or minstrels or ladies or gypsies or wenches; and – by pretending – sometimes become so.

Pennsic is, effectively, a temporary city: there is a large marketplace, there are classes where you can learn about all aspects of the (current) Middle Ages, there are battles and sporting events, there are camps and coffee shops that are the equivalent of your neighborhood pub, and there are parties that are the equivalent of the best nightclub or the worst frat house. It is all there for your education and enjoyment for two weeks of each summer.

If You Go:

Beware:  If you find yourself in a part of this city that is not to your liking, it is your responsibility to take to your feet and find your niche.  But also, Be Aware: most folks at Pennsic are good souls, and a request for help will usually be met with a genuine attempt to provide it.

Do Your Research: Visit  Read it front to back, so to speak.  This is the resource for things Pennsic.  Visit, the official site. Here, you can pre-reg (do, if you can) and find the class schedule, etc.

Garb Up:  You can go as simple or fancy as you choose, so long as you make an attempt at period garb.  Have fun with this, and remember, the more imaginative and authentic your garb, the more you contribute to the magic of this event.

Make Connections:  The general consensus is that it’s better to camp with an established group, if you can.  But if you have no SCA connections, you can always put down roots in a singles’ camping area.

Drink: Drink lots of water while you’re there. Cooper’s Campground water is generally safe but unpalatable, and bottled water is heavy. Bring a water filter.  In addition to the traditional pitcher-based filters, you can get ones fitted to individually-sized water bottles.

Eat: There are some fantastic food vendors, and many camps have meal plans.  But it’s easy to forget to eat, and so a good idea to bring some snacks along: energy bars (esp. mint chocolate chip, for the really hot days), tinned oysters, honey sticks, and jarred olives are all good pick-me-ups.

Talk to Strangers: While you should always use common sense, Pennsic is, as a whole, a community of really decent, fascinating people.  Meet them.

Embrace Contradictions: Pennsic is an example of re-creation, not reenactment, so you’ll find Viking women and Elizabethan men cheering on Ottoman dancers and Celtic musicians, often all in the same camp.  Maybe, the best way to look at Pennsic is not as an escape into the Middle Ages, but as a way to bring beauty and grace and ferocity and seductiveness into our own time. So if you see a samurai carrying a plastic cup, don’t bother to bemoan the plastic:  be grateful for the samurai.