The Fair Middle Ages

The Fair Middle AgesThe weekend of May the 1st & 2nd, saw yet another splendid “Medieval Fair” in Gumeracha. This community gathering goes from strength to strength every year with 7,500 visitors this year. The clear autumn weather certainly helps, but it’s the lengths to which most people go to, stepping back in time, that makes this fair so successful.

Everywhere you look is a person in medieval garb; knights, peasants, a monk, maidens, musicians, aristocracy, bishops and merchants. In fact, those in modern clothing seemed to be in the minority. There is definitely something appealing about this era; perhaps it’s the mythology surrounding knights and dragon slaying; or the romance of stories like King Arthur; or the beautiful costumes of the aristocrats; or the pagan rituals; or the wizardry and sorcery; or the exotic Middle Eastern influences; or the skill required to survive in such a brutal world?

Michel Gray is the Event Coordinator and founder of the Gumeracha Medieval Fair. It all started 5 years ago when Michel thought she’d like to start a wood-working show in Gumeracha. She met Ian Stratford (head of the Medieval Archers) to discuss the idea and suddenly a whole new medieval world was opened up to her, through Ian’s knowledge and contacts. She was surprised to learn there were passionate people dotted throughout Australia, who are involved in a vast array of medieval pursuits: re-enactment groups; medieval combat groups; sword makers; armourers; archers; long-bow makers; embroiders; jousters; knights; costumers and more. Michel says she is learning so much about this period in history that her main aim and passion is to educate and to open up this fascination to others. She said the Middle Ages, was a time of “huge revolution … [that incorporated the] …move from hand power to animal power and then to water power, such as water wheels and windmills”.

There have been previous medieval fairs held in Birdwood, Carrick Hill and McLaren Vale, but they’ve lapsed over the years. However, Michel Gray envisioned an amazing medieval fair for Gumeracha and the very first was held in 2007. It was mentored so successfully by the Gumeracha Community Association that it was decided the event needed a management committee of its own.

It may surprise readers to know that this entire fair is run by volunteers. It is the policy of the fair’s management committee to divide net profits amongst charity and community groups, who are nominated by those volunteers. This year on the weekend alone, there were 171 volunteers who worked a combined 1026 hours on the fair. This does not include time spent in the planning, organising and ‘doing’ prior to the actual weekend. In fact, with growing visitor numbers and profits, the fair was awarded the “Community Event of the Year 2010”, by the Adelaide Hills Council.

There’s honestly so much to do that you’ll need two days to see it all, with two arenas busy all weekend, a medieval village, a jousting field, children’s corner, traditional Punch and Judy, a Viking encampment and the Middle Eastern corner. Not to mention the many authentic food merchants and taverns open to bishops, aristocracy and working classes alike. And then there’s the fabulous costume competition run on both days, open to the public. Their website is packed with information including costume ideas, contact details and a timetable of events. You might want to get planning now, for next year’s fair – any questions, please call Michel Gray on 8389 1149.

The medieval archers prove their skill on long bows, shooting at moving and static targets. Some of the archers travel from interstate and said that this medieval fair is one of the best in Australia: they love the authenticity and atmosphere in Gumeracha.