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Knights, Faire ladies at Renaissance event at Endview Plantation

NEWPORT NEWS — The sound of steel against steel rang out again and again across the lawn at Endview Plantation Saturday.

Two men hefted swords and circled each other, occasionally lunging in for a strike of the sword against armor or shield. The yellow knight was outfitted in 100 pounds of heavy plate armor, the kind a mounted knight would wear. The black-clad knight was more nimble in chainmail and battered away at the yellow knight's helm.

Once both combatants had been exhausted, they embraced and raised their swords to the applauding crowd.

"Throughout the ages, it's always been a tradeoff between armor and mobility," said the black knight, Justin Fitzhugh after the demonstration.

Fitzhugh and his yellow knight-counterpart Richard Landis were performers at the Harvest Faire, a weekend-long Renaissance fair in Newport News. The men practice monthly in western martial arts and demonstrate at faires and festivals in unscripted combat.

"It's like medieval MMA. You do have to be in shape if you want to do this," Fitzhugh said. Landis dripped sweat from under his chainmail cowl.

Among a small city of canvas tents, hunks of meat roasted on iron spits over simmering coals. Cloak-wearing attendees mixed with ladies of the realm, as knights and Scottish warriors wearing kilts and claymores swaggered through a small city of canvas tents.

In its 20th year, Harvest Faire's organizers were hoping to draw between 600 and 800 people. Faire organizer Dave Reineri said the drizzly weather put a bit of a damper on attendance Saturday, but it was nowhere as bad as last year, when a downpour kept many away and fewer than 400 turned out.

Reineri's wife, Amy, said a lot of the attendees also help put on the event — there are as many as 200 performers, reenactors, vendors and organizers — but many are people who just wander by.

"There're a lot of people who come over and say, 'Oh, if I had known this was going on I'd have been coming for years," she said.

Vendors sold everything a medieval buyer could want, including swords and shields of all shapes and sizes. Aura readers and fortune tellers plumbed the depths of the unknown with attendees while belly dancers swayed to music ranging from period flute music to dubstep remixes.

Kenton Pike of Hampton said he'd been to a few fairs before this one, and had wanted to make it a family event.

"It's good for my kids to get a glimpse of history," he said. Pike's son, also named Kenton, stood enraptured watching a horseman hook rings on a 15-foot lance. He was also amazed by the blacksmithing and wanted to try it himself someday.

"It's amazing the stuff you can make just out of metal and heat," the younger Pike said.

The fair was a family affair for many, including Kathleen Cloonan and her 16-month-old daughter Brighid. Cloonan makes and wears period garb and was decked out a in floor-length black-and-brown dress fit for a lady of the realm. Her daughter wore a Rennaisance-period dress for her christening.

"She's a 'Renn rat,'" Cloonan laughed. "She went to her first fair in utero."

Murphy can be reached by phone at 757-247-4760.

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