This weekend I went with my friend Halle Snyder to the Festival of Maidens in Champaign Urbana, Illinois, two states to the west of where we live. Other SCA women were with us too: Ginny and Carole “Stasi.” Plus we met Finn there, who had taken the train down from the State Up North. The five of us stayed at the Eastland Suites, where we shared a Queen Suite, two rooms plus bath with two queen-size beds in one room and a pull-out couch in the other.

We got in late Friday night. The road trip took about six and a half hours, with a stop for dinner at Cracker Barrel and two pit stops. Halle has a nice big van called Miss Scarlet, which she bought two years before from Ginny, but still with all our stuff–our SCA garb and musical instruments and Ginny’s rapier equipment, plus miscellaneous items–the van was packed to the gills.

We got up nice and early Saturday morning, changed into our medieval garb, and ate from the bounteous hotel-provided breakfast buffet. I had scrambled eggs with cheese and hash browns, which were okay. The report on the coffee at the hotel, though, was thumbs down. I was drinking ice water and a bit of diet cola most of the weekend.

Then it was off to the Festival of Maidens site, which was located on the University of Illinois campus at their Armory, a huge hangar of a room. Really bad acoustics for musicians. πŸ˜›

Ginny was fighting rapier all day–18 bouts in all. She had a good day. Halle and Finn practiced Bardic Storm repertory with Pat Savelli (SCA name William of Fairhaven) and Drew Nicholson in preparation for their concert that night at the after-party. Stasi did some knitting and also sang ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ with the others.

Scenes from the rapier list:


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Bardic Storm practice, Halle, Finn, Pat, and Drew:


Stasi knits and waits to sing:


I serenaded some folks on my purple harp:


While I was playing harp, a young woman approached and tentatively said she was a musician too, a guitarist. Her name is Monica, and she is a grad student in the University’s Library Sciences and Information Systems program. Her undergrad degree was in theater and women’s studies, which gave us a bond, since mine was in theater and English.

We walked around the event a bit until I spied His Royal Majesty King Cellach talking with some folks. I asked Monica, who is not an SCA member, but whose brother in upstate New York is, if she would like to meet the King of the Midrealm. She was up for it and in a few moments it was our turn to approach HRM, who was his usual affable and charming self. He took her up to the Royalty Room to give her a token for attending her first visit in his Realm. She showed me it later, a very nice mug. My only regret is that I forgot to take her picture! πŸ˜›

One of the reasons why I was so excited to get to go along on this trip was to meet Jen Johnson, who is a major Viking studies and reenactment expert. She also helped to run the event, coordinating all the Arts & Sciences classes:


One of the classes was ‘An Elizabethan Guide to Chocolate,’ a popular class given by my friend Slany Bean Uillic (mka Sheryl Barringer). Here Slany is wearing her Henry VII French hood. Her later-period Henry VIII hood, which she prefers, was on display as part of the A&S judging and commentary service, but I didn’t get a photo of it, although I did admire it:


Halle, Finn and I left the event early because I was a bit under the weather. Both Finn and I took the opportunity to rest before the long evening of festivities–the Bardic Storm concert and after-party.

But in addition to resting, I did play and sing some songs for Halle in our hotel room, including ‘Willie of Winsbury’ on my new little travel guitar (which I bought on impulse on our very first stop out of town, at a music store where Halle needed to pick up ukelele strings) and ‘Cruel Sister’ on the harp. Finn later reported that my soft crooning had lulled her into a sound slumber. πŸ™‚

Then it was time to get ready for dinner with Jen Johnson and then the party! No one had seen me in makeup before:


Jen and I went to Maize, a restaurant with really authentic Mexican food. You could smell the corn from the parking lot out back. πŸ˜› We had tacos, and I also had a pork burrito, half of which went back to our hotel room refrigerator for a midnight snack.

Jen and I had a great time talking about everything from politics to Iceland (she spent four days there en route back from Sweden, whereas I was not able to go on my planned trip there last May), and the Pennsic War. (See my post Hoping for Pennsic this year!).

But before we got to Maize, Jen gave me a great gift: a book published by the British Museum on Viking poetry of love and war by Judith Jesch, one of my favorite Viking scholars. It is a small coffee-table book, lavishly illustrated and with short poems as well as extracts from longer ones, from both Eddic and skaldic poetry. I read some of it today on the long car trip home. I can’t wait to spend more time with it!

Finally, it was time to party! πŸ˜› Here are some very random shots I took during the after-party, which lasted until the five of us women, who had a room very very close to the party room, were sick and tired of it!


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This morning we ladies were up and at the breakfast buffet before anyone else staying at the hotel who had gone to Maidens and then the after-party. We wanted to hit the road. Now we are all home and getting ready for the next event, which for me will be next Saturday with Slany and her husband Uilleag at a Regular Event in Cleftlands, where I’ve been invited to play medieval harp music and give a mini-class on it during their Bardic Circle….