Every year, we attend an event called “the Pennsic War”. It’s put on by the SCA (which I’ve blogged a little about before, but to sum it up quickly, the SCA or Society for Creative Anachronism is a medieval recreation group). The Pennsic War takes place at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock, PA.
Trying to explain Pennsic to people that aren’t in the SCA is a little like trying to explain what a Cirque de Soleil performance is like if you’ve never been. It’s like a two week long Brigadoon, that mythical village in Scotland that appears once a year, and is full of enchantment and wonder.
In other words, it defies description.
What is interesting to me though are the rumors one hears about Pennsic, and if even half of them are true, well, it should illuminate a bit about the event we consider our one true vacation every year.
Rumor #1: Pennsic has its own mobile (as in, located in a temporary tent structure) post office that is only open and set up during Pennsic. It’s run by people in medieval garb. (This is, in fact true, as I’ve sent mail from the Pennsic Post Office.)
Rumor #2: The Post Office uses a special cancellation seal that is collected by philatelists around the US. (Again, true. I’ve seen the seal.)
Rumor #3: Every Wal-mart in the country sends its excess camping supplies to the nearest Wal-mart to Pennsic in late July. (I don’t know if this is true or not, but there are over 10,000 Pennsic attendees annually, and if half the people there sleep on an air mattress, let’s assume 3% of the air mattresses go bad or develop leaks during Pennsic, and you can imagine the sorts of numbers we’re talking about here…that’s 150 air mattresses purchased at Pennsic by my reckoning…)
Rumor #4: The SCA is supposedly (and every SCA member I’ve spoken with who works for the government in the real world says that this is in fact true) very high on the list of “organizations for the US government to go to if the world goes to hell in a handbasket”. SCA-dians as a whole have many skills including but not limited to: fighting in armor and with hand to hand weapons, living in primitive conditions, a generalized capability in setting up temporary structures and living in the elements for any period of time, etc.
Rumor #5: The SCA has the largest standing private army in the world. (This was definitely true several years back, but may have been eclipsed by a private army or two in South America by this point in time.)
Rumor #6: At Pennsic, the 10,000 attendees go through a 20′ box truck full of ice roughly every day. (I can’t actually verify this, but we did some fast math, and according to our estimate, on average, there are probably 2,000 to 2,500 blocks of ice purchased every day.)
Beyond the rumors though is the heart of why we go to Pennsic. We see several friends that come from various places all around the globe that we don’t get to see any other way during the year. We get to take classes on weird and obscure things like “Period Bread Ovens: How to Construct Them”, “Beginner Belly Dancing”, “The Essentials of Armored Combat” and everything in between. We get to witness human ingenuity (mostly in the form of the temporary structures created by participants) that run the gamut from hilarious to breath-taking. In other words, it’s everything a vacation should be.
So if you don’t hear from me, or my blog looks a little bare in the next two weeks, it’s cause I’m off to war…er…vacation.