Jousting tourney will return to to Mount Airy

June 10, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

After an absence of nearly 30 years, the sport of jousting will return to Mount Airy next month as part of the town's centennial celebration.

The tournament will be held July 3 at the Mount Airy Fire Company Carnival Grounds on Twin Arch Road from noon to 5 p.m. The event is free to the public.

Mount Airy centennial committee member Oliver Baker said he suggested having a jousting tournament because the committee wanted "something of the olden days" to mark the centennial.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, jousting tournaments were annual events at Mount Airy's Wildwood Park. A local horsemen's club revived them for a while in the 1960s, but the sport has been absent from the town since then, said Sandy Izer, a jouster from Hagerstown who is helping to organize this event.

"We're really bringing a sport home to a town that has always had it," said Ms. Izer, president of the National Jousting Association and a member of the Western Maryland Jousting Club.

"I'm excited," Ms. Izer said of Mount Airy's tournament. "I'm really into history and I love these old towns."

Mr. Baker, 67, who remembers going with his parents to Mount Airy jousting tournaments at the annual fire company picnic, is looking forward to jousting's return to the town.

"It's a good clean sport," Mr. Baker said. "It takes a special type of horse to go through the arches in a straight line in nine seconds."

Maryland named jousting the state sport in 1962, the first state in the country to adopt a state athletic event.

The first recorded jousting in the American colonies was in 1660, and the rules have changed little since then, Ms. Izer said.

On a horse, the jouster rides down an 80-yard course through three arches spaced 20 yards apart. The rider uses a 6-foot lance to attempt to spear small rings attached to poles on the arches.

Each rider makes three charges down the track, and there is a nine-second limit for each charge, Ms. Izer said.

Depending on the experience level of the jouster, the rings range in size from 1 3/4 inches to a quarter-inch in diameter. The quarter-inch ring is about the size of a dime and the hole is the size of the one in a Lifesaver candy, Ms. Izer said.

The sport of jousting dates back to medieval times, when knights used the activity to perfect their aim, Ms. Izer said. "Obviously if you could lance a small ring, the target of a human person was ever so much easier."

The colonists brought jousting to the America in the 1600s, and ** through the years the sport became very popular in the Southern states.

"It was everything a Southerner wanted," Ms. Izer said. "At one point it was so popular they were going to name it the national sport of the South."

Ms. Izer expects 40 to 50 jousters to attend Mount Airy's tournament next month, with most participants coming from Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Although jousting has a reputation as a game for the wealthy horse-riding set, Ms. Izer says the sport is not elitist.

"At one time, maybe in the 1800s, it was the sport of the gentry," she said. "But that's not true any more.

"I'm an antique store owner," she said, and the national champion is a maintenance worker in Virginia.

Ms. Izer encourages spectators to bring a picnic basket to the Mount Airy jousting tournament and "enjoy the riding."

The tournament will be followed by a fireworks display at dusk at the carnival grounds.

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