Cooks Creek is best known for its grotto, a provincial and national historic site. It looks like a fortress but has built caves on the inside. This site inspired the creation of a medieval festival fundraiser.
“We were looking to raise capital for our church, the Immaculate Conception, and the grotto (which is) quite a large complex to keep in shape,” Gary Senft, lead organizer of the festival, says.
“I was walking around it and looking at it, and it was very reminiscent of a castle in the medieval period,” which inspired the idea for a medieval festival, Senft says.
Formed in 2004, the biennial festival features jousting matches, heavy armour combat, a live chess tournament with people in costume as the pieces and archery (some on horseback).
For those who are less sporty, they also have a garden of ale, period music and dance, a puppet show for the kids, an evening banquet and more.
This year, the small town festival features international attractions. Jousters – who wear heavy armour, carry large oak lances and compete on horseback – will be coming from around the world including Portugal, Poland, Australia, Scandinavia, the U.S. and Canada.
“There are only about 110 jousters in the world, and we have 12 of them,” Senft says, noting that it now functions as a “kind of international jousting tournament.”
The entertainment features medieval music, dance and skits (often from Monty Python), and the music is held inside the cathedral, which is not only beautiful but cooler on a hot summer day.
The festival attracts 3,000 participants for the day, and 400 who stay for the evening banquet.
“The dinner sold out in five hours this year and with no advertising,” Senft says. “There’s a lot of people interested in the idea and so they stay in touch with us.”