MANCHESTER, NH —Do you have the winter blues? Are you looking to get away? How about a quick trip to medieval Sweden?
This weekend the Barony of Stonemarche, also known as the New Hampshire chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, will be transforming the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Manchester into the 10th Century Viking village of Birka. Birka was an actual medieval town in Sweden and was named to the World Heritage List in 1993. It is one of the most complete and untouched Viking Age trading sites from this period.
Lords and Ladies from around the realm are gathering Friday, January 24 through Sunday, January 26 for combat tournaments, a fashion show, and marketplace with a variety of wares.
This is the 31st year that the chapter has hosted Market Day at Birka. Currently the local chapter, which encompasses the entire state of New Hampshire, has about 200 members.
The Society for Creative Anachronism was founded 50 years ago in California to study and recreate Medieval European culture. SCA members adopt period names when they join. Lady Anjuili Foljambe’ has been coming to the Birka celebration for 30 years. Her first market Day was a feast at St. Stanislaus Church in Nashua. Her children and grandchildren are now participating members of the organization. As a result, she is heavily invested in the children’s activities which will include a puppet show, storytelling workshops, mask making for the ball, and a “quest” or scavenger hunt. Lady Anjuili also advises that the Arts and Science exhibit is not to be missed.
Leslie Birt, (Alexandra of Silverwood) who serves as the Seneschal and Jeanne McCarron (Baroness Deirdre Planchet) gave me a guided tour of the marketplace. Over 100 merchants selling handcrafted leatherwork, jewelry, period clothing, fabric, fleece, swords, archery supplies, and herbal elixirs fill every corner of the Expo Center. Melissandre, who serves as the Baroness’ retainer, tells me, “What I like best about what we do is that we are keeping old traditions and skills alive.”
On Saturday the event will also spill into the Armory, the Ballroom, and multiple meeting rooms.
According to Lady Alexandra, “Market Day at Birka is the largest SCA event in the East Kingdom. It is a very well-known event.” They expect more than 2,000 people to attend this year.
The Marketplace is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Expo Center on Saturday. The Fencing and Heavy List Bear Pit tournaments begin at 11 a.m. The fashion show starts at 3 p.m. and the Ball is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. On Sunday the Marketplace will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The entire schedule is available here
Registration for the event is $20 for adults, $15 for SCA members, $5 for youth ages 13-17; children under 13 are free but children and youth must be accompanied by an adult. You will be asked to sign a waiver when you arrive as the venue is filled with swords, arrows and people engaging in combat. Food is available at the hotel restaurants.
Unlike a Renaissance fair, everyone who comes to Market Day is considered a participant in the experience. As Baroness Deirdre Planchet says, “There is no audience here. Everyone is expected to wear period costume. If you don’t have anything appropriate we have loaner costumes for you.” The goal is immersion.
If you are not able to make it to Market Day the Barony of Stonemarche hosts other events throughout the year. The next one is Palio which will take place in June in Lancaster, NH.