Those passing through Hedges-Boyer Park on any Sunday afternoon may have caught sight of people dressed in medieval garb doing battle with clubs, mallets and other seemingly primitive weapons. When the weather gets colder, they build a fire and continue to meet.
The group is the Tiffin chapter of Amtgard, a worldwide non-profit organization based on fantasy and medieval arts. The local group is a "park" that calls itself Thee Night's Legacy.
"We get anywhere from five people to 25 or 30 people a week," said Maria Hemminger, one of the officers for the chapter. "We're out here every Sunday, from noon until we get tired and go home."
PHOTOS BY STEVE WILLIAMS
Young warriors (from left) Xander and Emmalee Hemminger defeat monsters portrayed by Cody Moore, Zach Jordan and Steven Kaser.
Two days ago, about a dozen people conducted activities at the band shell because their usual shelter was reserved for another gathering. A Sycamore resident, Hemminger said the Amtgard group also includes people from Tiffin, Upper Sandusky, Findlay and other local communities. She brings her children, Emmalee and Xander, so usually an activity is planned just for them.
On this day, a few older members posed as "monsters" for the younger warriors to slay and earn points for their exploits. The children pulled poker chips out of a sack to determine the number of points awarded.
Older members prefer "sparring" with clubs that look much like long baseball bats, but the clubs have a dense, foam core wrapped around a golf club shaft. The combatants try to make contact with solid taps, rather than blows.
What is Amtgard?
Amtgard is a fantasy and medieval recreational group that was founded in El Paso, Texas, in the early 1980s. Since then, it has grown to include more than a dozen Kingdoms spanning the United States and various other countries such as Germany, Croatia and Japan.
Amtgard members carry their sword and shield, staff, bow or whatever they desire onto the field of battle and fight other people face to face. The weapons are not real. They are foam-padded theatrical props.
Unlike other organizations, Amtgard places emphasis on combat and the choice of classes members may play. They include assassin, barbarian, monk, warrior and others. Each has its own abilities and weaknesses that make the game unique. Amtgard also has four magic-using classes: bard, druid, healer and wizard, and each class can choose its own spells.
"We do extra padding on the tips," Hemminger said. "Nobody's trying to hurt anybody else. It's all so much fun, they really get into it."
Don Kretsinger, Zach Jordan and Gary Meadows made shields enveloped in foam and covered with vinyl. Hemminger said any number of people can spar at one time as long as they follow the Amtgard rules of play.
In addition to the weekly exercises, members occasionally organize a larger event with scheduled activities, such as tournaments, instruction and a feast. Hemminger said the kingdom-level events can attract thousands to participate in role playing, quests and battle games.
"In the summer time, we do a weekend-long camping event," she added.
Having enjoyed the Dungeons and Dragons table game in high school, Hemminger said she met Meadows about six years ago and learned about Amtgard. She went from playing the game with paper and pencils to role playing and quests. She expressed minimal interest in battle exercises, but she has portrayed a damsel in distress for other members to save.
Amtgard is divided into kingdoms, with Ohio in the Kingdom of the Rising Winds. Rising Winds also covers Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Hemminger said Thee Night's Legacy has voluntary dues of $6 for six months. Members must show up and sign in at least seven times during that period to be considered a member in good standing. Each park has four officers to maintain order. The monarch for Tiffin is Meadows, who goes by the persona of Khelos.
"In my real life, I am Maria Hemminger. I'm an (state-tested nursing assistant) at Autumnwood Care Center, but on Sundays at Amtgard, I am Lady Amileen," she said. "We try to discourage people from taking names that are recognized from history or literature."
Hemminger has the office of regent, whose responsibility is teaching crafts and garment-making. The champion checks the weapons for safety, while the prime minister keeps the park's records. Hemminger said her group has "raided" other parks, and other parks have come here to visit. In recent years, the focus has been to add more members to the local park and to get all members to make their own medieval garb with a basic tunic and accessories of leather and knotted cords.
"We're the last local group that embraced the family concept of having kids out here and older people," Meadows said.
He added most other chapters are comprised of adult males with a "macho mentality." Membership is a form of recreation with its own unique benefits. Kretsinger said he has made many Facebook friends who are Amtgard members in several states. Meadows said his sons, Michael and Mathew, learned basic sewing while making their own tunics.
"On a perfect day, I get them out to do some physical activity but also to exercise their imagination. A lot of people lose that when they grow up ... not me," Meadows said.
Anyone wanting more information about Amtgard and Thee Night's Legacy can show up at the park any Sunday, visit www.facebook.com/
groups/TheeNightsLegacy or call (419) 619-9112.