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SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — There are a lot of small towns, cities, and communities in the Black Hills, but there's only one shire, the Shire of Noiregarde. However, there are no hobbits in this shire, no wizards, no dragons — only "SCAdians," the name applied to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The SCA is a group devoted to recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century European life. It began in California in 1966 as little more than a themed graduation party, the Black Hills Pioneer reported . In the 52 years since, the SCA has boomed into a massive network of like-minded medieval enthusiasts, hosting more than a thousand events spanning five continents every year.

"They started building armor out of carpet and using old Freon tanks for helms," Pat Haley, of Spearfish, said. "And now we've got people that make a living manufacturing armor for the SCA."

In 2002, Haley and a small group of friends founded the Shire of Noiregarde, a local branch of the SCA in the Black Hills.

Members are encouraged to create a persona when joining the SCA; however, the level of thought or backstory one chooses to put into that persona is entirely up to the individual. Members of the SCA are people who find some aspect of medieval times interesting, whether that's the food and drink of the period, the fashion, the art and culture, or the warfare, which became something of an art in those times, as well.

"We're trying to recreate history, so we're a historical reenactment thing," Haley said.

Haley said that since the SCA was started, its main focus has been medieval history, specifically Europe between the years 800-1600 AD. As the organization has evolved, it has grown to accept a much wider definition of "medieval history" to include cultures that didn't even have contact with Europe for the majority of the given timeframe.

"There's a guy that fights, and he dresses Native American," Haley said as an example. "He's wearing SCA (safety) minimums ... otherwise, it's skin, which hurts I guarantee you, but that's how he fights."

Haley explained that SCA fighting is very different from live action role playing (larping). SCAdians study the fighting techniques and battle tactics of the period, and apply that knowledge to live exhibition tournaments, while wearing actual period appropriate armor.

"We study period manuals," he said. "For example, in rapier we study Capo Ferro, Giganti, di Grassi, all these guys who wrote manuals in the 1500s about how to fence."

Larping, on the other hand, is more unstructured.

"I've never done larping, so I may get crucified for saying the wrong thing, but larping is something that has nothing to do with reality," Haley said. "Usually they're in stuff that looks like armor and hitting each other with padded swords, and they'll throw a bean bag at you and call it a fire ball."

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Though most "fighting" takes place at demonstrations or crowning tournaments, which are held annually to determine the King and Queen for the upcoming year, several times a year multiple "Kingdoms" will come together for what are affectionately called "wars."

"It developed into things like we have now such as Pennsic War," Haley said. "Where you've got 10,000 people show up for two weeks, camp out, dress in period, cook in period, and fight in as close to period without people really dying as we can."

There are 20 kingdoms in the "Knowne World" of the SCA. Each kingdom is divided up into local chapters or "shires." Unlike the feudal structure of medieval times, each local chapter has a roster of officers that are voted on by its members.

"It's fun to play," Haley said. "When you go to an event, and His Majesty comes in and you're like, 'Oh, your Majesty; all rise for His Majesty,' and everybody stands and bows. ... It's just fun to play the game."

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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