Fighting The Good Fight

Oatland Island’s

Annie Quinting, executive director of Oatland Island, also says, "We’ll have the pony rides again, and we’ll have the full artisan’s village, with music and dancing. The archery display this year will feature one of the best archers in Florida, a woman who is actually a knight in the SCA. "

As for the usual big day-long attraction -- the aforementioned knights beating on each other -- there will be plenty of that.

"We’ll be fighting throughout the day all day, from the time the doors open," says Darren Newton of the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, whose members eat, sleep and breathe all things medieval. "We won’t stop until the fighters fall out."

(A life-size, authentic catapult was schedutled to be demonstrated during the event; sadly, as we go to press we’re informed that the designer and owner of the catapult won’t be able to make it Saturday due to unforeseen circumstances.)

A normally serene and bucolic locale, Oatland Island is happy to host this warlike scene for a day, because it helps derive some much-needed funding for the educational center. While the Savannah/Chatham County Board of Education owns and funds the site, any extra money Oatland raises through its support organization, Friends of Oatland (FOO), can go directly to specific projects.

"One reason FOO was organized was so it could raise money for specific goals and so we could go ahead and start knocking down this list we have," says Quinting. "All the money FOO raises is put into Oatland. This is advantageous for the Board of Education and the taxpayers as well, because they don’t end up with the bill for some of the things we need to have done here."


Medieval Festival this year will feature all the usual attractions you’ve come to know and love: Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) "knights" gleefully bashing the crap out of each other, musicians playing bittersweet tunes of unrequited love on authentic instruments, and really big fried turkey legs.

The SCA is an educational organization devoted

One of the ways they have fun is by choosing a persona -- Newton’s is a 12th Century Mongol warrior named Lord Chinua Qadanjin -- and living their SCA lives through that alter ego. While most SCA members choose more typical European-style knights as their personae, others, like Newton, choose less widely-known historic references from the period -- Vikings, for example, or even the Native Americans that Vikings contacted during their visits to North America long before Columbus.

Another main way they have fun is by one-on-one close combat, using club-like, blunt rattan "swords" and wearing home-made suits of armor crafted from a diverse range of materials from metal to leather.

How do the SCA warriors cope with Southern heat, which is a good deal hotter than the northern European climes of most of their alter egos?

"If I come up with a good answer I’ll call you," Newton jokes. "You have to drink lots of water and know when you’ve become overheated. Our armor is real, and there’s very little skin exposed. Between fights we’ll usually take our helmets and gloves off."


to the study and reenactment of the historic period from the fall of the Roman Empire to Columbus’ discovery of the New World. While the members take their study seriously, they also like to have fun, and it’s the role-playing aspect of the group that sets it apart.

The funds raised this year will go to purchase

"It’s mainly having to do with animal emergencies, animal escapes, things like that," says Quinting.

For example, the site currently has no dedicated vehicle that is fully capable of penetrating to every area of its sometimes heavily wooded campus.

"For transportation around the site we usually use our pickup trucks, but they can’t always get to every place we need to go," Quinting explains. "Also, pickups aren’t designed to just go short distances -- we end up having to replace mufflers an awful lot."

So some of the money from this Saturday’s event will go to the purchase of an all-terrain type vehicle such as a "Mule," which would be used not only for routine activity onsite but for emergencies as well.

To help prioritize its needs, Oatland Island recently hired a consultant familar with the accreditation criteria for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to evaluate the site and its procedures for emergency preparedness. While Oatland is not required to be accredited by AZA, Quinting says it’s a longtime goal.

"We’ve been striving towards that for the last 12 years, and it might take another ten years to get there. The requirements are very strict," Quinting says.

"If you’re AZA accredited it makes you top shelf. It gives you resources you can use -- for instance, if we wanted to acquire a new animal, we could do that through AZA through its network of organizations."

The Medieval Festival is comparatively unique among fundraisers in that the money immediately goes into specific projects.

For example, funds from the 2004 Medieval Festival immediately went to repair Oatland dock facilities. Funds from last year’s Festival were intended to begin a new rehabilitation and surgery facility, and "Phase One is already underway," Quinting says. "We’ve begun construction of the holding and recovery area, and Phase 2 will be the surgery area."

The rehab/veterinary facility is of particular importance to Oatland’s ability to be a regional center for wildlife rehabilitation.

"When we get a new animal we have to keep it in quarantine for 90 days. Currently, we have no easy way of doing that here," Quinting says. "Another reason we need it is if one of our animals gets sick or needs surgery and recovery time."


emergency equipment for Oatland Island.

For the third year running, the symbiotic

"We’re an educational organization at heart," says SCA’s Newton, "and for us to be able to be directly involved with an educational group like Oatland is a huge sweeling of pride for us, that we get to be involved to bringing real history out to people in this kind of atmosphere."

SCA is allowed to recruit new members at the events, and each year Newton says they pick up several more devotees.

Oatland’s Quinting says, "For three years it’s been a win-win situation for both of us. SCA was looking for a place to practice, and obviously we have a lot of room. And we wanted to get this festival off the ground. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do it."

relationship between Oatland Island and the SCA continues to be mutually beneficial.w


The Medieval Festival is this Saturday from Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oatland Island Education Center off the Islands Expressway. Cost is $5 per person, with children under 4 admitted free. Activities and demonstrations include a catapult, swordfighting & crossbow demonstrations, a medieval village, blacksmithing and armor making demonstrations, strolling minstrels, birds of prey demonstration with Doris Mager, "The Eagle Lady", dancing and more.

For more on the local SCA chapter visit



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