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The Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon, often shortened to the Pent, is an arts and sciences competition dating back to the second Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon, held in 1978. But what exactly is this Pent? We’ve all seen arts & sciences displays at events, perhaps even entered a competition or two ourselves, but apparently the Pent different? While it has had many forms over the years, the most recognizable and often used is the current format of multiple categories anyone can enter and win individually. But what is unusual is that the Pent also has an overall competition among those who have chosen to enter a minimum of five different categories. And true to its name – a pentathlon is a sport that includes five different athletics events – entering the arts & sciences Pent can be quite the endeavor!

A wealth of judges and Her Majesty Margerite Eisenwald admiring a Scribal entry, at the 2017 Ice Dragon Pent.

The challenge here is more one of creative time management than of pure skill. Most artisans can’t plan a whole year, or more, to work on five separate high-level entries. What makes the Pent fun is to find those one, two or three entries that are complex enough on their own that their research and creation can be spread around several categories. The real challenge is to figure out how! Researched a unique beverage? Enter a Research Paper as well as a drinkable brew. Created a garment from scratch? Enter your garment in Fabric Construction, but enter the process of making the yarn, with nicely presented samples, in Fiber Arts. If you are especially nifty, you could even take a swing at an Applied Research Paper by documenting the dye used to color the yarn!

The pinch is that only entries from completely separate categories count towards the Pent (see the website for a list of the official categories). Anyone can enter up to five entries in any category, but only your highest scoring entry in that category will score towards your overall Pent score. Thankfully, entrants are allowed to cross enter one entry into one additional category, phew! Made a bag with wood handles? Enter the bag as a whole in Fabric Construction (formerly Accessories) and cross-enter the handles in Woodworking – voila, two entries!

Applied Research “Vinegaroon” entry by Lord Snorri skyti Bjarnarson at the 2018 Ice Dragon Pent

A category close to my heart, and quite useful in teasing out five separate Pent categories I find, is Applied Research. Extremely well researched items too simple or modest to compete fairly in a more traditional category fall under this. A fun category – experimental archaeology on a small scale – it is also one that does not seem to be utilized very often and why I wanted to spotlight it here. Some of the examples that come to mind are my entry of six simple soap ball recipes, accompanied by a veritable compendium of medieval soap research and recipes, as well as the unique Vinegaroon experiment, accompanied by ‘please try it!’ samples for the judges and general populace.

Be aware that due to the anticipated length of research papers (nothing to do with the soap compendium, I am sure), the paper/research portion of the Applied Research entry must be submitted in advance (received electronically or postmarked by February 15, 2022).

From a small local arts & sciences competition, the Pent outgrew its locale quickly to become a competition with Kingdom impact. Although, initially, not the kingdom you might think. Back then, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, our Sylvan Kingdom was only in the early planning stages and Ice Dragon was the premiere A&S event of the East Kingdom. It drew people from up and down the East Coast and could get in excess of 200 entries (so many judges…)!

Some of the more memorable entries, according to Pent autocrat Cori: the tiny dead people by (now Mistress) Luceta and the real poison (by THL Rue). And then there was the time John the Artificer entered his ferrets (I wonder if the populace could pet them?) and the agricultural entry that was a miniature of a rabbit warren (did the ferrets have anything to do with that?!). And then there was (now Mistress) Alizaunde de Bregeuf from the East who entered her upper torso covered with real woad… probably did not have trouble finding judges for that one. And what do you think (now Master) Clewin and (now Mistress) Fredeburg entered, “made with all authentic materials and processes”? They entered their newborn baby! With documentation. I can not confirm first hand how detailed, though, that you’d have to ask them.

Table of beautiful Fabric Construction entries at the 2019 Ice Dragon Pent.

Ice Dragon Pentathlon is for young (very young…) and old, for the beginner and the accomplished; even for the competing as well as the artisan more interested in display. The Pent organizers always arrange for a dedicated Display area. They also gladly make room for the infamous Misfit Table, brain child of Master Thorpe, for those projects that didn’t quite do what they were supposed to do. Now, if only we could enter a Misfit Experiment as a 5th Pent project… wouldn’t that make for an intriguing entry!