Lords and Ladies, if ye have not yet attended the dinner and show at Medieval
Times in Dallas, Texas, ye MUST do so! What a wonderful time. From the moment
you walk through the castle doors, you are swept into the renaissance of medieval
times. Each spectator is assigned a knights color of arms and crowned. Before
the two-hour dinner show in the arena begins, the Master of Ceremonies, Lord
Marshall Ralph Prodotti enlightens the spectators of what we are about to
witness. The beautiful and authentically reproduced weaponry is explained
and demonstrated, then a brief history of the battles, knights and horses
is recited and the floor is open for inquiries. Every member of the staff
is available for inquiries and many walk throughout the foyer graciously answering
questions and posing for photographs. The costumes of the knights are exquisitely
detailed and beautifully made and the knights themselves very handsomely look
the part. Lord Marshall Prodotti then introduces the Master Falconer, David
Von Wormer. Master Von Wormer is the Master Falconer for all of the Medieval
Times Dinner Theatres throughout the United States, and on this night, perched
upon his arm, is a lovely two-year-old female falcon. She has passed the rigorous
training program and is ready to make her public appearance in the arena on
this evening. Master Falconer Von Wormer gives an informative introduction
of the art of falconry and also spends time graciously answering questions
about these beautiful birds of prey. Next you hear the boom of a deep voice
telling all to “Make way! Make way for the King!” As the crowd
parts the King of Arms entourage enters the foyer leading the king and his
daughter, the princess, to the stage. The King makes introductions and calls
forward all of those spectators who are to be knighted for their birthday
celebration. Polite applause follows the announcement of each new knight anointed,
and then the spectators must “Make way!” as the King and his princess
depart for the tournament. Waiting for the tournament to begin, spectators
walk throughout the foyer enjoying the gift shop area, bar, and best of all,
the horses. Along one wall are stalls where the beautiful white Andalusian
horses are being saddled.
Precisely on time, the Lord Marshall calls each knights color and those spectators are led into the arena. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The seats are tiered in such a way that every spectator has a clear view of the arena. The action takes place anywhere from 20 to 50 feet away from you. And action it is! The Lord Marshall enters the ring on horseback and begins to tell the story that will be beautifully choreographed on horseback and on the ground. As the story opens the wait staff starts serving the feast. Our bill of fare included a hearty soup, roasted chicken, spare rib, potato, pastry and a beverage, all to be eaten by hand. No forks, no spoons and you get to holler for your knight while stuffing your face with absolutely delicious food. Who cares that I got my camera greasy! As the action begins, it’s fast and furious. Challenges are made, sides are chosen and within minutes the arena full of horses, and knights are being cheered on by the whoops and boos of the crowd. The games begin…friendly…at first.
The horsemanship is unbelievable. The knights ride Andalusian crosses of sorrel and bay costumed spectacularly in body and headdress. The friendly games open with spearing a ring from an anchored pole. Knights ride their horses at full gallop and are almost all successful at driving a spear through a 3-inch ring. They ride on to spear rings hanging from ribbon and then a bull’s eye target. Successors receive a flower from the princess of whom all knights are bidding her affection. During the friendly games a parade of the court enters and colors are challenged and the true story of the challenge is revealed (and I’m not telling!). Things soon take a turn for the worse. As the challenges heat up, sword fights erupt and accusations are made. The knights exit the ring to gather their courage and make ready for the jousting, a fight to the death!
Enter the Andalusians. An astounding demonstration is performed as these spectacular horses move as if doing ballet. In full medieval dress, the horses and riders execute dressage moves and the Andalusian Stallions excel as they are queued by their handlers to make their magnificent jumps above the ground. Master Trainer Marcial Contreras enters the ring on an incredible 6-year-old Andalusian Stallion and effortlessly accomplishes moves that would be difficult for the most agile horse. Master Contreras’s commands are barely visible and the stallion is absolutely breathtaking. Spectator’s minds are briefly robbed from the knights as the astoundingly athletic and superbly trained horses demonstrate their maneuvers.
Then the battle resumes. The crowd roars with excitement as the knights return for a battle to the death. A net is released from the ceiling to protect the spectators from flying debris. Sword fights ensue, more challenges are made and battles are carried out. The knights engaged in fights using swords, spears, axes and the horrid ball and chain called the mace. Jousting begins and knights charge at a full gallop, wooden spears shattering as contact is made, and fallen knights unceremoniously crash to the ground and are quickly pulled away from horses hooves and the knights swinging sword. The crowd goes wild as the challengers win and lose, as one knight is attacked by another, as swords strike and axes hit home. The wounded must still defend themselves against the attacking knights…some are wounded, some die, honor is lost, and position is reassigned. Then there is a surprise of a bad guy…but I’m not telling that either. Believe me when I say the hour-long introduction and two hour show kept me on the edge of my seat.
After the tournament and dinner spectators return to the foyer and get to congratulate their knights. This was my chance to ask questions of the knights, all of them handsome, all of them gracious. Among the six of them it was interesting to learn that the head knight, Jeremy Turner of California, had been with Medieval Times for 12 years. An excellent horseman and swordsman, Jeremy has trained knights for Medieval Times, many of whom now work throughout the nine locations of the United States. Knight Ryan Palguta had never even been on a horse until he applied for the job a year ago. His horsemanship was fantastic, as if he’s been riding all of his life. John Echols has been riding for 6 years and Mark Massey, Jeremy Hargrave and Jack Mathis were answering questions about the tournament, so I didn’t get to ask them how long they had been riding. Operations Manager, Jonathan Rico, was very accommodating and I’d like to thank him for allowing me the few minutes after the show to get the photographs and names of the knights. Thank you Sir. Master Horse Trainer, Marcial Contreras, also took the time to speak to me and demonstrate more maneuvers on the magnificent Andalusian stallion. Master Contreras has been training horses for 25 years. Originally from Mexico, Master Contreras has been with Medieval Times for 15 years, and he too began in California.
The show was fantastic; the staff absolutely charming, our waiter, Eddie, was a doll and the food was delicious. Two days later I went out to Chapel Creek Ranch were the Andalusians are bred, raised and begin training exclusively for the Medieval Times Tournaments. See part two of the Medieval Times story soon, where the history, costume, horses, weapons and training will be explained. In the mean time…go! It’s a wonderful show. Exciting yet relaxing, a sensory overload, an incredibly accommodating staff and a roasted chicken recipe that I’d like to have.
You can contact the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament for reservations at 1-888-WE-JOUST or www.medievaltimes.com.
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