A woman carrying a box of new toys arrived at The Zone on Saturday morning.
It was not unusual, more than 200 other people have dropped off new toys to hand over to Toys for Tots of the US Marine Corps League, who will be distributing them this Christmas.
What was unusual about this woman was that she was dressed in civilian clothes. The rest of the comers wore all their best vintage clothes for the Society for Creative Anachronism’s annual toy and money drive. The international re-enactment group returned to host a toy drive this year, having canceled last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The woman told organizers she just wanted to donate to the program.
Participants (and those who wanted to be generous) had donated over 2,250 toys by 11:00 am.
Seventy boxes surrounded the company’s volunteers, who sorted the toys when they arrived.
In the background, the sounds of medieval-style sports fighting echoed in The Zone.
Maria Geeslin, organizer of the event, said attendees from the Society for Creative Anachronism want to do whatever they can for Toys for Tots and the children served by the program. About 200 members of society took part in Saturday’s toy drives and tournament games.
The games included archery, armor combat, youth combat, and cut and push competitions.
The group has been running tournaments for about 30 years, Geeslin said.
“It slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said. “It started when about five or six of us were like ‘Hey let’s start a tournament. Hey, let’s do it for Toys for Tots.’”
It’s a “pay to play” scenario, she explained. If people want to fight in the tournament, they must bring at least one toy that meets Toys for Tots’ requirements – toys must be new, cost at least $ 5, and be in their original packaging, not wrapped.
“It took. And it got bigger, and got bigger, as we turn everything into a competition to help motivate people for a charitable cause,” Geeslin said.
They ended up creating the contest “Whoever brings the most toys wins”.
And they bring toys. Lots and lots of toys.
A man, partially armored, entered with his hands full of toys, including a large pink and white unicorn.
Others had stuffed animals hunched over their arms.
The organizers, surrounded by boxes, quickly sorted the toys according to potential age groups, gender, and toy styles.
Attendees came from Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and other neighboring states, Geeslin said.
“People have come a long way to be here. And they bring so many toys,” she said. “Boxes and boxes and bags and bags of toys.
“To the point where Harold (Faughn) said, ‘Can you make us a solid and sort them out as you get them? “”
Faughn, the Cole County coordinator for the Toys for Tots program, said the program was sorely lacking in support the company offered.
And, he added, the generosity displayed at the start of the year was almost overwhelming. Him and Staff Sgt. Claus (another local volunteer) had prepared to fill fifty of the Toys for Tots donation boxes at the event. However, when they saw the answer brought 20 more.
Near the site in the building where the volunteers were sorting the donations, the archers clashed to see who most resembled Robin Hood.
The archers faced targets containing sheets of paper. Each leaf had a design on one side of a dice. A judge rolls a dice to indicate which target to aim. Thus, archers should shoot the paper with the corresponding paper.
In another area, competitors clashed in armored battles. A herald announced their names, the houses they represented and other information. Then they hit each other with bamboo sticks, “spears” or sticks. None of the “weapons” contained metal and all were blunt. Competitors determined by the judges were beaten, “succumbed” to their injuries and fell dead.
Each was heavily padded, wore elbow and knee protectors, and wore helmets.
Helmets are very heavy to help protect from neck injuries, according to John Eddy.
“Unless I’m hit somewhere where I don’t have armor, it doesn’t really hurt,” Helena Soranzo said. “I can feel the pressure.”