Wow, I never wrote anything on St. Elegius! Let's take a few minutes and fix that now.
While I had never competed in it before, the A&S competition at St. Elegius has long been a favorite of mine. Each competitor chooses what level they will compete at, ranging from Novice (<3 years in the SCA) or Novice (<3 years working at the art you're competing with) through the experienced and Laurel level. Competitors are judged by other entrants who are competing at that level, and experienced artisans and Laurels are on hand to help the folks who are judging. The fact that your fellow entrants are judging your entry really lends an air of camaraderie to the experience, and rather than keeping you in your chairs all day behind your entry you end up getting to talk to all the other entrants about each other's art and science, and it can really bring about a giant pile of people enthusiastically going on about their area of study to folks who may or may not know much about it at all. (As a bonus, it also introduces newer artisans to the idea that someday, they may well need to evaluate candidates for an A&S Order who Do An Art that you have no real experience in.)
Originally, I'd only intended in competing in the Art of Fencing side competition that our newest OGR (as of Court at the end of the event, and congratulations to him!) Don Christoffel had put together. There was a bit of organizational confusion at check-in about who was taking signups for that, so I was encouraged to enter the primary competition of the day while everything was sorted out. I wasn't expecting to do this, I didn't feel prepared, but I had an essay and my manuals with me because I'd decided to wildly overdo it for the Art of Fencing competition, so I let myself be peer-pressured into it. I decided to completely throw caution to the wind and compete at the Laurel level, filled out my entry forms, and found a table.
I was lucky enough to be able to save a seat next to me for Lorenzo, who I understand was also convinced to compete in the primary competition at the Experienced level. I forget who else was sitting around us, but at least we'd have our little Martial A&S Corner between the two of us, and worst case we'd just talk to each other about swords all day, right?
It turns out that there was only one other entry at the Laurel level - Galfridus was entering with from-scratch couscous, made in a period clay vessel for doing so. It was really, really great! (Both the presentation, the cooking vessel, and the food.) It was set up similar to a modern double boiler, with the stew steaming the couscous. I had no idea what couscous really was in a from-scratch sense, and I think that food as an A&S entry is always a favorite - being able to directly sample the entry is wonderful on a number of levels. Frankly, I loved Galfridus' entry.
Beyond Galfridus, I spoke with a couple other Laurels who were filling in as extra judges, and they seemed to enjoy what I had to say. Lots of questions and answers and swordchatting happened, and it was a really good time.
The Art of Fencing competition happened after the primary competition wrapped up; we had five entrants who walked the judges and an audience through a plate of their choice. There was a range of skill, choices, viewpoints, and interpretations, and discussion around the plates, and I think it was a really enjoyable and educational time for everyone. While the contestants were sequestered away for the judges to talk, we had some really solid discussions about how to work on the visibility and understanding of martial arts and sciences, and also what some of us had for ideas going forward to learn and try out. (Spoiler: I should make myself some poleaxes sometime. Also, longsword fun!)
In the end, I ended up winning the St. Elegius competition at the Laurel level (and I posted the paper I put together here - it lacks any of the discussion I had, but you can get that basically any time just by asking), and I came in second to Lorenzo in the Art of Fencing challenge - his discussion about the process behind his interpretation of the plate he chose was excellent.
Looking ahead to A&S Champions, I think I'm going to be poking at something that doesn't require as much immediate physical demonstration (though it can still have some if we decide to go outside) and also involve things that we can in no way do under our rapier rules. Which is to say, I think I'm going to crack open some Fiore. I'm pretty excited about this; I've loved a lot of his armizare, and don't get to really dive into it very often, so this should be a lot of fun.
For a slight topic switch, I've been enjoying the stage fighting videos by this Czech group. The longsword fight has been making the rounds recently, and it's got a lot of material in it that's clearly taken from actual manuals, and that's pretty great to see being used to help stage a really well done and entertaining fight scene!