Armor Day was the result of the combined efforts of our Public Programs staff.
Armor Day at Wave Hill—February 20, 2016—was sunny and almost balmy, which made for perfect conditions for merrymaking and medieval adventures.
Sydney Van Nort of Historic Arms, our partner for the day, prepared a comprehensive range of artifacts and hands-on activities for visitors to learn about and experience some of the skills and techniques of the medieval period. The Mark Twain Room was buzzing with visitors brass-rubbing, grinding spices with mortar and pestle and exploring her beguiling collection. Historic Arms also provided an impressive collection of armor and weapons from medieval Europe, Africa and Asia, on display, appropriately, in Armor Hall. Historic Arms also presented talks to an attentive audience: Prof. Richard Van Nort presented “Bashford Dean and the Nine Worthies;” while Elliot Nesterman talked about “Heraldry and Symbolism.”
Crests, Flags and Banners
More than 150 visitors of all ages—one a three-year-old!—created their own personalized flags, accompanied by tales of brave lions and valiant dragons and magnificent fleur-de-lys. The results were hung on strings that crisscrossed the reception area of Wave Hill House and by the end of the day there was a colorful collection on display.
Purge-the-Plague Scavenger Hunt
A dozen red-eyed, semi-realistic black rats were secreted in parts of Wave Hill House, to be sought out by keen-eyed children. Fully-checked cards were redeemed for small prizes such as baby plastic rats, themed temporary tattoos and mini medieval stamps.
A Wandering Minstrel I…
Musicians David Anthony, the “Bard of Sterling,” and his accompanist Robyn Buttery performed period songs and instrumental pieces at intervals throughout the day, even from Armor Hall’s Juliet balcony!
Archery and Fencing Demonstrations
The Tri-State Archers Club did an excellent job of demonstrating proper technique and form in Modern Archery and engaged the family audience with questions and fun facts as they demonstrated a modern/compound bow and a medieval/traditional cross bow. The gentlemanly (and gentlewomanly) sport of fencing was demonstrated in Armor Hall by Historic Arms. Techniques, such as lunging and parrying, were explained and watched by a large crowd.
A small decorated “pavilion” (one of our pop-up tents) served as the locus for this ceremony. Eager children lined up for their turn to kneel before a fully clad knight in armor and to be dubbed as knights (or ladies) themselves.
…and a Group Dance
The bear dance is simple but energetic, and dates back many centuries. With our musicians providing the lively tune, and following an introduction given by our resident dance-master/horticultural interpreter, Charles Day, a group of around 20 visitors enjoyed pretending to be part of a Bruegel painting.
Unsurprisingly, with all the macho equipment on display and the day’s general excitement, it all ended with a fight. Fortunately, it was well organized and very coordinated and no one was hurt. Members of Historic Arms donned their full suits of armor and demonstrated the cuts and thrusts of medieval warfare on the Great Lawn.
Family Art Project: Amour for Armor
Family Art Project leader Ilse Murdock reports that downstairs in the Sally and Gilbert Kerlin Learning Center, the celebration was equally intense, as families created helmets, gauntlets or cuffs, and protective shields using upcycled egg cartons, containers, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, fabric and ribbon. Available for adornment were thick sheets of foil in red, gold, silver, emerald green, blue, gold and copper; red velvet; royal purple satin; gold fasteners; sequins; mesh; burlap; and cellophane. In the Sarah and Geoffrey Gund Theater, families joined storyteller Rama Mandel, wearing a lovely maiden’s crown, read Night Knight by Owen Davey and The Golden Prince by Felix Arthur, illustrated by Jenny Capon. Saturday saw close to 400 visitors busy on these projects. An enthusiastic crowd showed up on Sunday morning for a reprise of the whole experience.
Actually part of Wave Hill’s Armor Week, Armor Day was preceded by weekday family art-making, and followed Sunday afternoon by a spectacular performance by the two violinists, cellist and harpsichordist of REBEL Ensemble for Baroque Music of works by Telemann, Corelli, Bach, Goldberg and Vivaldi to a sold-out crowd. It was a magnificent conclusion to an exceptionally festive week.