UPDATED FOR PENNSIC 48! About to attend her 41st Pennsic, Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope has compiled an array of tips and ideas on how to have the best possible experience at the War. In part three, we’ll look at how to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at Pennsic, and we’ll also learn a little SCA/Pennsic etiquette. If you haven’t already done so, check out Part 1 and Part 2.
Comfort and Safety
Cinnamon is a good organic bug repellent. Cheap at the dollar store, spread it around the perimeter of your tent to keep ants and other pests out.
- Keep food out of your tent if possible, or at least well sealed up. Food draws mice, bugs, etc.
- Don’t put an air mattress directly on the ground – it will get cold! If you must put it on the ground, bring quilts/blankets to put on the mattress under your sleeping bag, and/or on the ground under the air mattress.
- When you get up in the morning, make your bed and pull the blankets over your pillow (or tuck your pillow inside the sleeping bag). This keeps pillows etc. from getting damp or dusty.
- Bring a roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag. Only use it if the portajohns run out.
- Go easy on caffeinated beverages – they are a diuretic, which means they’ll dehydrate you.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or if you expect to over-imbibe, bring temperate friends to help you get back to camp safely. Waking up face down in the mud may make for a good story later, but it’s no fun while it’s happening.
- The First Aid station has a misting tent and water buffaloes. Use them when it’s hot.
- Go to Moraine State Park for a swim. Swimming is not permitted in the lake at Pennsic, and is also no longer allowed at the old swimming holes (no matter what old-timers tell you), but Moraine has beautiful sandy beaches and is only a 5 minute drive east on Rt. 422. There is no admission fee, just drive right in and enjoy.
- Ride the bus. At over 450 acres, Cooper’s Lake is huge, which can make getting around very tiring, especially in armor. Buses run during daylight and into the evenings, with routes that go from the lake to the battlefield, the parking lot, and archery range. Some of the buses are air conditioned. When using the buses, thank the drivers! They have a pretty boring job, and if they are running late, it’s probably because of road conditions or people blocking the way. Bus stops are marked on the map in the middle of the site booklet.
- Do not use an open flame inside your tent. This is very dangerous. Tents have burned down and people have died at camping events. Use a flashlight or electric lantern instead. If your camp uses tiki torches or lanterns powered by candles or oil, situate them so they cannot set tents on fire if they are knocked over.
- If you become overheated, two quick ways to cool down are to place a wet cloth around your neck and put your feet in a basin of cold water. Save the water you drain from your cooler when replacing the ice for this purpose. It may sound terrible, but it’s amazing on a hot day. You can also get ice cream at the food court or the Coopers’ store. That said, if you feel disoriented, or you stop sweating, get to First Aid immediately, as you may have heat exhaustion. It can turn into heat stroke, which can be fatal. Some people buy battery operated fans for their tents; you can also get a spray bottle for water with a small fan attached if you overheat easily.
Bring and use bug spray with Deet and check yourself and your kids regularly for ticks. This is another very bad year for ticks and Lyme disease is a major concern.
- Check the side effects of your medications before Pennsic. Some cause photo sensitivity that can result in sun poisoning.
- If you have kids, make sure they know camp rules (especially the meaning of “Hold!”), the name and block of their camp in case they get lost, and who to ask for help (Coopers’ employees in scrubs, staff members, and other mothers with children are good candidates). What to do with kids at Pennsic could be a whole article of its own… in fact, here it is!
- Bring a hand fan, especially for classes, performances, court, or any other stationary activities. You can buy fans from a variety of merchants on site. Wicker fans are more durable than paper ones.
- Keep valuable/important items hidden away or leave them at home. Unfortunately, there are occasional thieves at Pennsic.
- Lines at the Pennsic showers are shortest during battles, and longest right afterward.
- The legal drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. Do not give alcohol to minors. When in doubt, card them. Plenty of parties at Pennsic do it.
- Remember that a lot of teenagers look older than they really are. Enough said?
- Be wary when walking around at night. On the whole, Pennsic is pretty safe, but remember that you’re basically living in a very compact town of 10,000 people (or more). If you’re going to less populated or poorly lit parts of the site, take an escort or travel in groups. When partying, make sure you are with someone you know and trust, and be cautious about taking alcohol from strangers. Most Scadians are nice people. A very small number of them at Pennsic are not.
Not everyone at Pennsic is a Scadian. There are bunny fur bikini barbarians, vampires, elves, and other weirdnesses. Just smile and be understanding. Most of them are friendly and harmless.
- When driving through the campsite, go slow. 5 mph is the limit, and they mean it, not only for safety but also to avoid kicking up a lot of dust.
- When arriving at night, drive with your headlights on. Some people will tell you to only use parking lights to preserve others’ night vision, but too many drivers have run over tents and other things they couldn’t see in the dark.
- When walking with a flashlight, point it at the ground, not in people’s faces. On clear nights when the moon is out, try going without the flashlight. As long as you have decent vision, there are plenty of lanterns at most camps to light your way. Most experienced Scadians don’t use flashlights at Pennsic. The major exception is when going to the portajohns at night – you want to see what you’re getting into….
- Before entering a camp that’s not your own, even if you know its inhabitants well, greet them (“Hail the camp” or even “knock-knock” will do) and request permission to enter. It’s the equivalent of knocking on the door instead of barging into someone’s home.
- Mug your camp’s gate if you like bards. Hanging a mug by the entrance to your camp is a sign that you welcome bards. Wandering minstrels will know there’s an appreciative audience in your camp, and stop in. You can tip them if you like, but at least offer them a drink. Some may have CDs to sell.
- Do not borrow or handle other people’s stuff without permission, and always return borrowed items promptly.
- Don’t put your fingers on a real blade. Whether checking out the merchandise at a knife or sword seller, or admiring a friend’s new steel weapon, don’t touch the blade – the oil in your fingers can damage the surface and promote rust.
- It’s ok to haggle with the merchants. Especially toward the end of the war, merchants are eager to get rid of excess merchandise so they don’t have to haul it home. Be respectful, but it’s ok to say “Would you take $12?” for an item marked $15. If they say no, well, hey, you tried.
- Canvas or nylon walls do not block sound or light. “Nocturnal activities” and even changing your clothes may unintentionally provide your campmates with shadow puppet entertainment, so turn the light out first, and try to keep it down, please.
- Move your car to the parking lot after unloading. Don’t leave it in your camp or on the road where it’s in the way and reduces the medieval ambiance. Cars left on the road too long may be towed. When parking to load/unload, if you can’t pull into your camping area, park on the EAST (towards I-79) or NORTH (towards the main parking lot) side of the street to ensure that the roads are passable for emergency vehicles as well as other cars.
- In the portajohns, shut the lid when you’re done. It sends the smell out the vent pipe instead of letting it build up inside. Eeeeewwwwww. And use the hand sanitizer or wash your hands at the next opportunity if you don’t want to end up with the “Pennsic Plague.”
Don’t try to bow to every tin hat that walks by. You’ll just tire yourself out, because they’re all over the place. Learn to recognize different types of coronets (6 pearls = baron/baroness, 8-16 pearls = viscount/viscountess, crenellations like a castle = count/countess, strawberry leaves = duke/duchess) but expect to see some you can’t categorize. Rule of thumb – if the people with crowns/coronets have an obvious retinue following them around, then they’re probably Royalty and you should bow. Otherwise, a nod is sufficient but probably unnecessary. Of course, if you recognize OUR King and Queen, Gareth and Juliana, it’s polite to bow.
- Offer water to any visitors to your camp.
- Help your neighbors. Offer to pick up ice for them, help them set up tents or load/unload their cars, watch their kids, feed them soup when it’s cold, help them put things back together if their tent blows down in a storm. They are likely to do the same for you. Pennsic is a community.
- Try to keep mundanities out of sight. Put your watch in your pouch instead of on your wrist, for instance, or cover your cooler with cloth.
- Observe Quiet Hours. Everyone likes to party, but remember that there are families with kids, morning people, and some of us who are just plain older. Official quiet hours are from 2 am to 7 am. If you’re camping in an area with a lot of kids, please consider extending that back to 10 or 11 pm out of courtesy. And if a neighbor comes to you and politely asks you to keep it down, try to be gracious and comply. That said, some areas of the camp are rowdier than others, and as long as the noise isn’t a nightly thing, try to be tolerant of your neighbors’ partying. Non-compliance during Quiet Hours may result in a visit by The Watch, aka Pennsic Security.
- Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your trash for others to deal with at venues like University tents, the Food Court, and the Cooper’s store. There are trash cans and dumpsters at various locations around the camp.
At the end of Pennsic
- Friday afternoon, start packing up what you can. Expect rain on the last day of Pennsic.
- Leave your camp site cleaner than you found it. This is a cardinal rule for every SCA event, but it goes double for Pennsic. Take all trash to the dumpsters. Fill in all sumps and firepits completely. Scan the grass for stray refuse. Not only is it polite, but your ability to camp in that area next year depends on it, as groups that do not clean up may have their camping rights revoked by the Coopers.
- Plan to set your tent up at home after Pennsic to dry out. Also expect to do 3-5 loads of laundry per person and a day or two of unpacking, take three hot soaking baths to get the grime out of your feet and fingernails, and sleep about 12 hours straight.
- To reduce post-Pennsic let down, schedule something fun for the following week/weekend. Go to an amusement park or a movie, or do something else relaxing. A massage is a great thing when returning home.
For more Pennsic-related tips, go to the FAQ page on the Pennsic website.