Desert Park set to host medieval jousting over May long weekend

The Town of Osoyoos will be taken back to medieval days over the Victoria Day May long weekend as the Desert Park racetrack facility will host what promises to be the most unique event ever held at that facility.

Knights in full body armour will challenge each other over three days – from May 21-23 – as the inaugural Tilt and Lance Joust will transform Desert Park into a medieval village, said local organizer Paddy Head.

Organizers have invited six of the very best “jousters” from North America to compete in the three-day event in Osoyoos, said Head.

Jousting is a medieval competition where competitors in full body armour ride on top of their powerful horses with a 10-pound wooden lance and attempt to knock off or disarm their opponent coming directly at them from the other direction at full speed.

For more than 500 years, jousting was the most popular competitive sport in the world and it has made a remarkable comeback in popularity over the past decade with competitive circuits in Canada, the United States and many countries in Europe, she said.

Head first got involved with the Society of Tilt and Lance Cavalry just south of Calgary when that organization put together a jousting competition at the Aldergrove Fall Fair in the fall of 2013, said Head.

As a dedicated lover of horses her entire adult life – she was one of the first licensed female jockeys in Canada dating back to 1970 – Head was so impressed that she helped organize other jousting events in B.C. and even a few near Calgary.

One of the first things she did when she moved to Osoyoos a couple of years ago was become an active member of the Desert Park Exhibition Society, said Head.

“I’ve had a love affair with horses my entire life,” she said. “I didn’t grow up around horses, but I had a fascination with them and started riding as a teenager. Then I became hooked and was training them and decided to go for my jockey’s license when I was only 20 or 21 back in 1970.

“My passion for horses has never gone away since then.”

Head talked to other members of the society about the possibility of hosting a jousting event in Osoyoos after attending several events the past three years and being thoroughly impressed with the pageantry and competitiveness of the sport.

She contacted her good friend Radar Goddard from the Society of Tilt and Lance Cavalry in Calgary and she agreed to help her get in touch with several of the top competitors on the Canadian and American circuit.

Head is hoping there will be solid fan support for this unique event as organizers would love to bring a jousting event to Desert Park annually.

“It’s a fascinating sport to watch,” she said. “The horses are magnificent and the competitors are very skilled.”

There will be two rounds – one at noon and one at 4 p.m. – during all three days of competition, said Head.

Judges, who provide a score for each competitor after each round, determine the winner.

“The competitor with the highest score after three days of competition is the winner,” she said.

Goddard, who competes on the Canadian circuit, said the cost to purchase a full set of armour ranges from $8,000 for a used set up to $20,000 for the latest state-of-the-art materials.

Jousting was a popular sport in many parts of the world for hundreds of years and reached its height of popularity in the 15th century, when tens of thousands of fans would pour into large open air stadiums to watch competitions, she said.

Many communities in North America host medieval festivals and hosting jousting competitions has become increasingly popular over the past decade, she said.

In medieval days, fathers would send their sons to receive training to become jousting champions, she said.

“It was exclusively a sport for the rich,” she said.

“These young boys would be sent away for training and would be top competitors when they were 16 and 17 and their fathers would send them on the tournament circuit. It was the most popular sport in the world for more than 500 years.”

The competitors who have agreed to compete in Osoyoos are among the very best in Canada and include names like Jean Francois Drapeau, Stephane Tremblay and Lacey Hadford, Canada’s top female competitor, said Goddard.

Tickets for the event are now on sale at $15 apiece. They are being sold at the Osoyoos Times office and online at www.eventbrite.ca.

Most members of the exhibition society also have tickets.

Keith Lacey
Aberdeen Publishing

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