out 14th century entertainment such as jousting,
fencing and belly dancing at the Des Moines
Renaissance Faire this month.
Remember the Atari? Ah, come on. It wasn't
that long ago (OK, it's been a while) when the
first home video game system taught kids the
general concept of jousting, as the player's
character rode on the back of a flying ostrich
charging with a long, pointed stick at knights
riding on buzzards. It was fun… for about 10
minutes, and then it was back to "Pac-Man."
But, as kids, most of us likely did not consider
the origin of the sport. Jousting was once a
truly brutal and often lethal sporting event
of the 14th century Middle Ages. How fitting,
then, that it be re-enacted by professionals
at the Des Moines Renaissance Faire. And while
it's handled in good fun, and the ruthless gravity
of the original event has been tamed, Renaissance
Faire entertainment coordinator Greg Schmidt
says it's more than just an amusing show.
"Jousting is becoming, officially, a new
sport around the country. More and more competitive
tournaments are popping up," he said. "We
have one of the best jousting troupes in the
country in Des Moines."
Joust Evolution, which is run by Kevin Coble
of Dallas Center, is considered the Midwest's
premier equestrian jousting troupe. Coble, who
once toured across the country with the New
Riders of the Golden Age, settled in Dallas
Center a few years ago because he likes Iowa,
according to Schmidt. Now Joust Evolution performs
at about five Renaissance festivals a year in
"They put on a fantastic show, featuring
thrills, spills and real hits — a great mix
of risky stunts and professional comedy,"
Joust Evolution will perform three times a day,
all three weekends of the Des Moines Renaissance
Faire, which starts Sept 3-5 and continues Sept.
10-11 and Sept. 17-18, at Sleepy Hollow Sports
Park, located at 4051 Dean Ave.
Also being featured at the festival are a variety
of other Medieval sporting events and demonstrations,
such as sword fighting, archery, fencing and
belly dancing, all of which offer participation
from the audience.
"People have been real enthusiastic about
it," Schmidt said.
Members of the Des Moines Fencing Club not only
perform the sport of fencing continually throughout
all three weekends, but they also offer coaching
for the members of the public who give it a
try. The challenge is to pop the balloon on
your competitor's helm, Schmidt said.
"Fifty percent of time the people know
each other, but a lot of people step up to the
ring alone and fight against the next person
in line," Schmidt said. "It's something
I've seen at the big festivals in Chicago and
Minneapolis for years. It took me a long time
to get someone to do it in Des Moines."
Fencing can be a dangerous endeavor, so the
festival also offers the Boffer Challenge Ring
for kids. For the third year in a row, the Council
Bluffs re-enactment troupe, Riverheim, brings
their trained knights and soft "boffer"
weapons to the challenge ring for the "young
"Kids use soft, foam swords and bash at
each other for a while," Schmidt said.
"Kids can step up from the crowd and participate
in training or in earning the right to purchase
their own boffer sword."
For the females, Danza Mystique lures ladies
from the crowd to try belly dancing in both
the tribal and exotic fashion with drums, live
steel and even a snake during four shows daily
on the third weekend of the faire.
Check out all the events and admission prices