You read that right – Jousting. Knights and all.
After a successful trial event in August 1951, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce decided to plan a second event for Friday and Saturday, September 5-6, 1952. This event marked the first official Highland County Fair.
However, this time, the Chamber decided to add a bit more excitement than the previous year’s live auction sale and dance.
In mid-August 1952, final arrangements were made to host a jousting tournament – the main event of what Highland County Supervisors dubbed the “Fall Homecoming Fair.”
Mr. J. Ed. Arbogast secured expert riders for the event, while Mr. Russell Bird erected scaffolds to hold rings the hard-riding knights would attempt to spear.
Also assisting with the tournament arrangements were Edward N. Pugh and W.R. Hicklin.
Based on information from today’s local jousting events, which have been held in the area for the last 200 years, riders compete on an 80-foot long course set up with three arches. A small white ring hangs on a strap dangling from each arch. The knight – with lance in hand – is tasked with running his horse down the track and successfully spearing each of the rings. No biggie. Except the rings are about 1 ¾ inches in diameter, and the horse is running at full speed!
If riders were able to do that, they were rewarded with additional trips down the track to spear even more rings … except they got smaller with each pass. The smallest being only a quarter inch in diameter!
We can only speculate a similar competition took place at the 1952 Highland County Fair.
As our local history records indicate, knights from all around our land paid a $2 entry fee to compete for cash prizes of $25 for first place, $20 for second, and $10 for third with an extra $5 given to the rider chosen as the “Most Graceful Horseman.”
But the highest honor of all, the reason all knights risked fear and injury that day, was to win the honor of naming the “Queen of Love and Beauty” at the end of the day.
Tournament day came.
The Monterey High School band led a parade of knights to the field adjoining the then (and present-day) Monterey Livestock Market.
The skilled knights wore brightly-colored jackets and sashes and may have been rumored as the best in the land.
Those wishing to witness the spectacle of age-old skill and bravery passed over 25 cents for admission.
I mean, knights in Highland County??!! Who could miss that?!
Honorable and skilled mounted riders, such as the Knight of Stonewall, the Knight of Blue Grass, and other skilled riders from Rockingham, Augusta, and Rockbridge counties arrived to compete.
(You thought we were referring to knights of the Round Table, didn’t you?)
No, no. These were Highland County knights and their fellow neighboring riders.
Though the skill of the seasoned and experienced riders no doubt pulled gasps and cheers from the audience that day, rookie knight Carl Hull, the “Knight of Blue Grass,” won the day as Tournament Champion in his very first jousting event.
Eighteen valiant knights competed that day, but Sir Hull, the Knight of Blue Grass, claimed victory with a perfect score and proudly named his queen – Miss Charlotte Beverage of Monterey.
Securing second place for the tournament was Maxwell Whipp of Burlington, who rode as the “I-Would-If-I-Could” Knight. Sir Whipp won the tiebreaker ride-off over third-place knight David Hess (aka: the “Atlantic Greyhound” Knight) of Bridgewater.
Unbeknownst to them, those riders were making history. Not simply to be read about approximately 70 years later, but because of the skills they possessed to enter such a contest – skills that are likely rare these days. And, the impressive thing is, they were just having fun.
If you’d like to see what this 1952 event may have looked like, consider attending an event held by the Natural Chimneys Jousting Club!