GREENVILLE — A new type of sporting event came to the Darke County Fairgrounds this Memorial Day weekend.
The Treaty City Joust Tournament, a free event which ran all day Saturday and Sunday, was hosted by Combatants Keep, a self-described historical entertainment troupe whose members hail from as nearby as Greenville and as far away as Ontario, Canada.
Jousting is a medieval sport consisting of matches between pairs of opponents on horseback wielding lances or long pole-shaped weapons designed for cavalry soldiers. Each participant tries to strike their opponent while riding toward each other at high speed.
Ken Mondschein, one of the day’s competitors, has a doctorate in medieval history and teaches at a number of colleges in Massachussetts.
“That means I have a lot of history but no money,” Mondschein said.
Mondschein has been interested in the medieval period since he was a kid, when his mom bought him a copy of Le Morte d’Arthur, a 15th-century collection of Old English stories and legends about King Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere and other mythical figures. A fateful joust figures prominently in some versions of the King Arthur tale.
“After that I was hooked,” Mondschein said. “I took riding lessons for 20 years, and I was in a jousting group when I was younger as well.”
Mondschein takes part in maybe four or five events like the Treaty City Tournament a year. While he supplies his own armor and weaponry, which is far from cheap, he typically has to borrow a horse from another local enthusiast.
“You don’t have to feed and house and pay veterinary bills on armor,” Mondschein said.
Mondschein — dubbed “Dr. Ken” by his fellow medieval enthusiasts — and his wife drove 12 hours to take part in this weekend’s event. Other participants come from closer to home, however.
At 18, Elijah Harris is the troupe’s youngest member. Originally from Canton, he moved to Greenville in 2011. It’s Harris’ first year in the sport, according to organizer Kim Nader, having made his debut at a Viking festival in Ashville in April.
Jessica Post, meanwhile, works at a tack store in Delaware — a northern suburb of Columbus — and started training with a different troop in 2009. When asked how long it took for her to become proficient at the sport, Post smiled.
”I still don’t feel that proficient,” she said. “I get nervous and scared before every match still.”
Post started her jousting career in a more physically demanding version of the sport. While the goal of each match in the Treaty City tournament is to break the tip of your opponent’s lance, she started out with a troop that sought to actually knock their opponent off his or her horse. Post no longer takes part in those events, however.
“I’d like to continue walking and being able to use my limbs for a longer period of time,” she said.
Unlike Post and Mondschein, who are actual competitors, Noell Everhart is a squire, meaning that he follows the troupe around and helps out where he can.
“I just enjoy being around these guys because they’re so much fun,” Everhart said. “Working with the horses can be dangerous, but I know these guys want me to succeed, and I know that if something happens, somebody’s going to be right there to keep me safe.”
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