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Ride, Sir Knight! Ride, Fair Maid!

Celebrating the 154th Calvert County Jousting Tournament 

By Molly Weeks Crumbley 

“The rings are hung, the track is clear. Charge, Sir Knight!” 

Vicki Betts’s announcement rang across the grounds of Christ Church on Aug. 28. A field usually reserved for outdoor Sunday services was surrounded by onlookers who had just cheered on a parade of horses and riders. The 154th Calvert County Jousting Tournament was about to begin. Occurring nearly every year since 1866, the event in Port Republic is the longest-running showcase of Maryland’s state sport. 

While jousting no doubt invokes images of knights clashing in heated battle, modern ring jousting is rather less bloody. Jousters do wield lances, but their targets are rings rather than one another. Simple riding helmets and t-shirts replace suits of armor as riders gallop beneath a series of arches to catch small hanging rings on their lances.  As Betts explained to the crowd, preparing for jousting competition is no easy feat. “It takes three to five years to train a jousting horse, asking them to do things that aren’t natural to them,” she said. “Not all horses take to jousting.”  

Ring jousting, declared the Maryland state sport in 1962, is a true test of horsemanship and agility. Riders get three passes down the 80-yard track and must run it in 9 seconds or less. At that speed, they have to keep their horses on course while also possessing the dexterity to spear the rings. Scoring is simple: the knight or maid to capture the most rings is declared the winner. 

Several different classes of riders compete at the Calvert County Jousting Tournament, beginning with the professionals and continuing through lead line, novice, amateur, and semi-professional categories. In the professional category, Brad Enfield, the Knight of Little Antietam and 2020 National Jousting Champion, ran away with first place as the only rider to achieve a perfect score after catching all nine of the 1-inch rings on his lance tip. Following a tie for second place, four riders had to run additional passes to determine the remaining prizes. Marley Enfield, the Maid of Enfield Farm, took second place; 2016 Maryland Jousting Tournament champion Lily Fisher-Flaherty, the Maid of Tynnewed, took third; and Bob Enfield, the Knight of Lancealot, took fourth. 

Plenty of spectators were present to cheer on the riders and explore the different food and bazaar stands on the church grounds. Christ Church is one of the original Episcopal parishes in the state of Maryland and the oldest continuously operating church in Calvert County. It celebrates its 350th anniversary next year, having survived the trials of wars and now the covid-19 pandemic. The joust remains one of its most attended and adored traditions, bringing in spectators and competitors of all ages from all over the state.  

“I have been coming off and on since I was a kid,” noted one visitor, a Lusby resident, as she and her husband headed towards an afternoon organ concert inside the church. “It’s such a unique thing to do and I love that it’s always free.” 

Due to the pandemic, some changes to the event had to be made this year (boxed dinners instead of the usual sit-down service, reminders for unvaccinated people to wear masks), but the atmosphere felt the way it always has: a lively gathering celebrating what is arguably one of the most unique state sports in the country.  

The 155th Calvert County Jousting Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022. More information is available at christchurchcalvert.org and on Facebook @christchurchcalvert.  

As Christ Church’s rector, the Rev. Christopher Garcia, wrote in his welcome letter to this year’s attendees, “All are welcome—you are invited!”