SMALLWOOD — For just a few hours this past weekend, Carroll County was Camelot.
The clear notes of a trumpet sounding the call to arms rang through a woodland glade. At the herald's command of "Charge, Sir Knight! Charge!" --ing horsemen swept forward on their steeds, lances at the ready.
The satisfying rhythm of hoofbeats pounded through the oak grove as spectators cheered on their favorites. At the end, fair ladies received roses and kisses from their gallant heroes.
The picnic grounds of the Trinity Lutheran Church on Deer Park Road were once again the setting Saturday for one of the tournaments on the Maryland Jousting Tournament Association's schedule of events.
Since the 1950s, jousting has been an integral part of the annual Dutch picnic at the church. This year, the 115th picnic, about 15 knights and maidens competed for the cash prizes and a trophy.
The object of a jousting tournament is to spear a series of three rings suspended from frames orarches while riding at a full gallop over a designated course. To the uninitiated, it looks like trying to thread a needle while riding aparticularly bumpy roller coaster.
The jousting track consists ofthree arches set 30 yards apart with a 20-yard starting space. From each arch, a ring is suspended 6 feet, 3 inches above the ground.
In the novice class, riders attempt to spear 1 3/4-inch rings. Trophyclass contestants deal with rings that are a minuscule half-inch.
Had there been a tie in that class, one-quarter-inch rings would have been used for the runoff.
Riders must complete the course in nine seconds or less. Each rider gets three chances to spear the rings, so a nine constitutes a perfect score.
The jouster's lances are made of wood tipped with a metal rod tapering to a point. To spear the rings, the rider tucks his lance under his arm and handles the reins with the other
A good, steady horse is a must for jousting. Todd Hoffman of Frederick, "Knight of Whispering Pines," is delighted with Casey, a 10-year-old quarter horse stallion he recently purchased. Hoffman and Casey finished third in the semi-pro class, winning a tie in which 1-inch rings determined the winner.
Morris Schultz of Denton, Caroline County, also known as "Knight of Rosebud," said he uses a special saddle when jousting.
"This is a plantation saddle," he said. "It has a broad seat like a Western saddle, but no horn."
Schultz, like other jousters, spends most weekends from May to October on the jousting circuit.
"Some of the tournaments offer fairly substantial cash prizes, but you'd never make a living doing this," he said with a grin. "You do it for the love of the sport."
Mary-Lou Bartram, publicity director for the MJTA, explained that in some tournaments the riders and horses are elaborately costumed in medieval dress. Saturday's nearly 100-degree temperatures required a different style of dress and more casual attire of T-shirts, blue jeans and even shorts, though some sported standard riding gear.
Jousting is a family affair, as evidenced by the Virtz family of Frederick. Not only did Mike Virtz Sr., the state champion and president of the association, compete, but his wife, Nancy, "Maid of St. Mark's," vied in the novice class. Son Mike Jr. competed in the amateur class.
Spectators, having made themselves comfortable in lawn chairs along the course, were treated to an exciting display of horsemanship and skill.
The first run of the day by Jesse Ensor Jr., riding on Starby, was a thriller. The 10-year-old speared all three of his first rings and ended up second in the novice class.
As the various jousters made their runs, it was easy to distinguish certain styles of riding and evenguess at the rider's personality from the way he or she approached the course.
Phil Clark, the "Knight of Little Red Wagon" from St. Mary's County, was obviously a seasoned vet, sure of himself, knowing how much to urge his horse forward. Dick Kerschner, "Knight of WalnutLane," bore a striking resemblance to a stout, rosy-cheeked yeoman farmer from the old English countryside.
Bob Enfield made an appropriate choice of "Knight of Sir Lancelot" as his jousting name, as he came on --ing and dauntless, going for every ring full-out. Mike Virtz, with more wins under his belt than he can count, is the ultimate pro, smooth in the saddle, slipping each ring onto the tip of his lance as deftly as if he were standing still.
This year's trophy was anew one donated by the church. Last year, Virtz, winner of the trophy class, was entitled to keep the trophy as his own after winning it three times. History repeated itself, with "Knight of St. Mark's" again walking away with the prize.
In addition to the trophy, cash prizes were awarded the first three jousters in each class.
The following prizes were awarded in first, second and third places:
* Novice class: Peggy Hoffman, Jesse Ensor Jr. and Nancy Virtz.
* Amateur class: Brenda Cotter, Karen Kirkendall, Peggy Hoffman.
* Professional class: Mike Virtz Sr., Bob Enfield, Phil Clark.
* Semi-pro class: Morris Schultz, Rob Cotter, Todd Hoffman.
* Trophy class: Mike Virtz Sr., Bob Enfield, Jesse Ensor.