In a tug-o-war formation, two teams line up and prepare to fight to the death.
“Weapons up!” announces one of two heralds on either side of the line. “Now split!” they say as the two lines merge to the thundering sounds of the frontrunners’ shields exploding into one another.
Siedde II, a foam fighting event held at Carley State Park near Rochester last weekend, brought together almost 20 foam fighters of different ages, towns and levels of experience.
The activities consisted of participants wearing armor and fighting with foam weapons, allowing a free-for-all without the risk of serious injury.
Much of the fighting centered on medieval culture, including the fighter names of the participants and the medieval-style apparel. Camping outdoors at the park Friday night added to the medieval experience.
“I can’t see myself going in the middle of this,” Rachel Ellerman, the wife of participant Todd Ellerman , said, in reference to the bundle of wet, gasping fighters engaged in foam-to-foam combat.
Rachel resembled a soccer mom — knowledgeable in the terminology and objective of the game, yet content with staying on the sidelines, chatting with other spectators.
Although there were few spectators at Saturday’s activities, Rachel said that at a past event in Iowa, approximately 30 fighters were accompanied by about 15 wives and girlfriends.
This is not to say women are not active in this type of medieval combat. Britta Voorhaar , or “Xana,” 19, helped organize the event and has been fighting for two years.
For Cori Eby , or “Dogone,” Siedde II was his first ever foam-fighting experience.
Eby took public transportation with friend Chris Echols (“Noxx”) for the two-hour commute from their homes in Minneapolis to the event.
“It’s really fun seeing the looks on people’s faces … [when] one guy has armor, two guys have swords,” Eby said, referring to his experience riding the public bus with his realistic foam weapons.
Foam fighting has been around since 1979, and has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to the Internet, said Michael Williams , a veteran fighter who runs a foam-fighting weapons and armor store in Illinois .
Williams also referenced the movie “Role Models,” which featured medieval foam-fighting combat. Williams said he considered the 2008 movie good publicity.
As medieval culture reigned at the event, many fighters dressed accordingly, generally in dark-colored pants and tunics. Some wore leather face masks, and one even wore his own chainmail.
Josh Halter , a Rochester resident who has been fighting for a year and a half with the name “Gein,” estimated that 95 percent of the clothes worn at these events are handmade. Halter himself wore red knee-high socks, a long black scrubs-like tunic, a medieval-style leather belt and a white bandana was wrapped around his head.
Joshua Seevers , a Northwestern College student who has been foam fighting for two years, said fighters are encouraged to wear clothing without zippers and buttons.
For some, foam fighting is a family affair.
David Pratt, 22, was an event herald, or the foam fighting version of a referee, and fights with the Twin Cities’ foam fighting group, Frozen North . His younger brothers, Daniel and Elijah, began fighting after David joined last summer. All three brothers attended Siedde II.
The event was hosted by the Frozen North group, or realm. Seevers defined a realm as a group of people “that live in driving distance of each other that can practice and fight together.”
“Weapon check” also happened during the lunch break. The weapons, which ranged from swords, shields and javelins to a spear with a Hulk -like fist at the end, are checked for rips and tears. If the PVC pipe core that some contain is exposed, the fights would no longer be with foam, and injuries would be much more prevalent.
The heralds spent much of the lunch break doling out advice and giving their own diagnoses of broken weapons.
These men seem to be more advisors than enforcers of the straightforward rules — a hit limb becomes defunct, two hit limbs kills the player, a hit to the body instantly kills the player — as the fighting is “a game of personal responsibility and … honesty,” Scott Lenner , or “Cú,” a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, said.
Many seasoned fighters said winning is not as important as simply getting better at the game or having a good time.
“It’s not super competitive,” said Seevers, adding that there are simply “people that are recognized as being good.”
“Everybody you talk to will say it’s all about having fun,” Lenner said.
Pratt said that because of the weather, the fighters ended up leaving the park earlier than planned, on Saturday evening. Nevertheless, the fighting continued on Sunday afternoon with the usual Twin Cities practice at Van Cleve Park in Minneapolis.
“Overall, the event was not as large or long as usual due to the weather, but most of the fighters had a great time despite it all,” Pratt said.
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