Parkview Baptist High School English teacher Joy Holden, wearing a floor-length dress and a ring of flowers on her head, paused in conversation to break up a sword fight in the center of the school’s courtyard.
Corralling sword fighting students happened somewhat frequently during the senior English students’ Medieval Festival on Nov. 20.
The festival was part of a research project about the world that inspired Geoffrey Chaucer’s book “The Canterbury Tales,” including bands of marauders and knights, which led to the authenticity of the random skirmishes at Parkview.
“Hey, get back to your stations! We’ve got a group of fourth-graders about to start a tour,” Holden said as she directed the brawlers, grouped in the center of the courtyard, from the set of booths near the back of the square called Dualville.
It’s the dual-enrollment seniors who are taking college courses this year, she explained. “They wanted their own section, so …”
The festival was made up of about a dozen booths displaying everything from Medieval music, food and weaponry to period medicine ranging from sometimes delicious rosemary tea to unappealing leeches, in this case represented by gummy worm candy.
“They have a lot of fun with this,” Holden said, approaching a booth where senior Hannah Cleveland stood holding a die.
“Would you like to roll for your caste?” Cleveland said in a spot-on British accent, explaining the differences in how people lived in medieval times.
Each face of the die had a letter — with C representing a castle where the wealthiest and most powerful lived, and M a manor house for families who were near but not at the top of the social and wealth scale, and so on, down the ranks of wealth and comfort.
At the bottom were peasants, Cleveland said.
“I rolled a castle, which suits me fine because I already have a tiara collection,” she said.
Each student also was assigned one of the book’s tales — Cleveland studied the clerk’s tale — to prepare for a research paper and presentation to the class, Holden said. In addition, they were required to research one of the medieval lifestyle categories and come up with a presentation on that, as well. The costumes and booths at the fair accounted for another portion of their grade.
The period writing of the book can be a little on the dry side for some students, said Holden, and the research portion combined with the festival brings it to life for all the students at the school, including the lower grades, who toured the festival.
“They will be anticipating this project when they are seniors. Everyone looks forward to it,” Holden said.
The drama department at the school helps the seniors find costumes that will fit, she said.
At the medieval medicine booth, Jessie McCrary and booth mates Michael Daigle, Katie Kelly and Claire Brewer poured cups of rosemary tea along with other samples of medieval cures.
McCrary studied the tale of the Franklin, a jolly, party-loving character whose tale highlighted the code of chivalry and keeping your word no matter the personal cost while being kind and protecting those weaker than yourself.
A band of seniors armed with swords jogged by, announcing their intent to attack a village, while another group of seniors gathered the fourth-grade students to teach them an authentic medieval dance that was set to the tune of two guitarists who had studied medieval music.
“Come feast with us!” said Lexie Everett, the Woman of Bath, who dished out pottage, which, she said, could include anything a family had to throw in the cook pot.
On this day, Everett said, the pot included “spuds. No, try it. It’s actually quite good,” she said, filling small paper cups.
Some seniors put a lot of time and thought into their projects, Holden said.
“A few students made their own weapons,” she said, pointing out a crossbow made with a wooden yardstick, a wooden dowel, string and a clothespin, that worked pretty well, along with carved wooden swords and longbows.
“They really get into it,” she said.
The festival began in 2009 under the senior English teacher at the time, Shirley Depew, Holden said. It has continued under Emily Smiley, Holden and Linda Purcell.