Planning an SCA Event

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March 9, 2015 by phicks2012


I’ve been active in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) since May 31st of 1988. Doing the requisite math, that’s nearly 27 years, and let me tell you, that’s dedication!

At first, beyond learning the ropes, I had to deal with ignorant, meddling friends of my mother, who made no effort at all to find out what my hobby actually was before telling her I was obviously in a cult. It took YEARS (and the growing popularity of Renaissance Fests) before many people finally got it through their thick skulls that what I was doing related to an interest in history (and to historical art, costuming, music, and the concepts of chivalry and honor), and NOT to anything even remotely resembling “Heaven’s Gate”, but eventually it did happen, thank God.

In addition, many of the things I enjoyed mundanely, but which had never seemed to translate well to earning a living in my everyday life, were encouraged and rewarded within the SCA. Creativity was looked upon as a good thing, and I was able to make use of mine not only in the Arts & Sciences but also in the area of service.

One of the service areas in which creativity helps is in the planning and execution of Events. SCA groups (Shires, Cantons, Strongholds, Ports, Baronies, Provinces, Principalities and Kingdoms) host events at which guests participate in a variety of activities, and where they hopefully have a lot of fun, but these events require a lot of planning prior to the actual date. Nowadays they also require creative advertising and promotion, but more importantly they need to organized, scheduled, and staffed in such a way that everything can happen as planned and will provide guests with a positive experience.

Though occasionally the categories are combined, SCA Events generally fall into three major categories. 1) Arts & Sciences Competitions where artisans enter and display original artistic creations or projects created by period methods or in period style. 2) Collegiums where tracks of classes are taught throughout the event and guests can take these and learn a variety of useful or interesting things. 3) Fighting Events where the main event themes revolve around tournaments, melees, and other martial-related activities.

Arts & Sciences events call for the organizers to assure ample space (usually indoors) to set up displays and to hold things like performing arts, to line up knowledgeable judges, and usually to find someone able to produce a really great period feast. Collegiums require the organizers to recruit and line up good teachers and a wide variety of classes, to have classrooms in which to hold the classes, and generally to find a feast steward to produce a good, enjoyable feast. Fighting events require organizers to plan for a variety of fighting activities (heavy, rapier, live weapons, equestrian, siege weaponry, melees, and battles all fit into this category, though not all may be featured at any single event), to recruit marshals able to oversee these activities and heralds to make announcements, and to find someone able to produce a good high-protein fighter’s feast.

Elements from other sorts of events can be combined. For example, there might be some fighting at an A&S Event or Collegium to entertain and occupy those who are not actually all that artistically inclined, and there may well be a few classes lined up for Fighting Events to occupy and entertain non-fighters. Children’s Activities might well be scheduled at any event to occupy, entertain, and educate our youngsters, and occasionally we have Quests and Games as well. Some events, especially Wars, tend to have large merchant areas at which attendees can shop for a wide variety of items, and sometimes there are Bardic Circles (for live performances) and Revels (for dancing).

But those planning an event, however small or large, will need to understand that event activities will naturally be limited based upon time, space, staff, and expected attendance. If most attendees are busy fighting all day, then there will be fewer guests to take part in other activities, so lining up 2-4 really good classes for morning and afternoon, or scheduling a couple of good classes in the morning and a really fun quest in the afternoon can work better than trying to schedule a dozen non-fighting activities. You have to be realistic.

Planning an event requires the organizers to plan for advertising, budget, food, event activities, staffing, site requirements, and other details that might not, at first, be obvious. Will there be signs set out to direct guests to the site, and if so who will set them out? Will there be a feast, and if so who will prepare it? Will the Crown be attending (They will probably have to be invited if you want Them to come), and if so will there be a Court, when will it be scheduled, and who will act as Royal Liaison? Who will serve as Chief Marshal, Class Organizer, Chief Troll (in charge of signing in and accepting payment from guests), and Site Steward (to be sure bathrooms are stocked with tissue and hand sanitizer and help with site set-up and breakdown)? Will there be an event Chatelaine to interact with newcomers and curious bystanders if the site is open to the public (as with a college campus, for example)? If the event is held over a weekend at a cabin site, as many of ours are in our Kingdom (Meridies) thanks to an abundance of state parks, what cabins will be reserved for Crown and entourage, for staff, or for handicapped access? Do you have good, reliable people on staff? Will there be site decorations?

Planning an event is rarely something that can be done on-the-fly and still be successful, but over the years I’ve discovered that if you start planning well ahead with a to-do list and simply check off one thing at a time, you can finish up all of the pre-planning weeks before the event, leaving yourself time to deal with the inevitable — and I do mean INEVITABLE — last minute problems. If you let critical things wait until the eleventh hour and then your Marshal has to bail due to a mundane family emergency, or the venison you were going to serve at feast turns out to be unavailable, or a tree falls on the pavilion you were going to use for feast and you have to come up with an alternative, then you not only have those last minute crises to deal with but also have to handle things that could already have been done if you hadn’t let them slide.

If you are in the SCA and would like to run an event, I very much encourage you to do so, because it is a very rewarding undertaking. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it so many times. It positively impacts your group, serves your Kingdom, and tests your planning and leadership skills. So, if you relish a challenge and want to serve your group, by all means step forward and give it a try. It will be worth it.

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I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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