The Jousting Life

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Few Yards of Scarlet Velvet

Steve R. Gagnon is an internationally competitive jouster based out of Montreal, Canada, where he lives on a small ranch and trains horses and riders for historical jousting. He first began jousting in the year 2000 in Québec, Canada, where he helped to pioneer the development of the sport in that area. He began jousting internationally in 2009, and has since competed in Belgium, France, Poland, England, USA and, of course, his home country of Canada.

He has worked as a creator and organizer of medieval festivals for nine years, and in 2010, he organized the first Lys d'Argent International Jousting Tournament, which included both a sport and a historical division.  In 2012, he won the Lys d'Argent tournament with his teammates Marc Hamel and Patrice Rolland. However, he considers his best achievement to have been winning the jousting competition during the Tournament of King John III at Gniew Castle in 2013 against 11 of the world's most renowned jousters.

Steve works as an art and creative director in the advertising industry. In rare moments of spare time, he also likes to draw, paint and sculpt. In the painting below, you can see an example of his skill in the visual arts:

Acrylic painting by Steve R. Gagnon of himself and the Percheron gelding Gibraltar
(image provided by Steve R. Gagnon)

During the 2014 jousting season, he competed in Canada, England and France, and served as Knight Marshal(head referee) at the Tournament of the Phoenix 2014 in the USA. His experience marshaling that tournament inspired him to write the following essay.

A Few Yards of Scarlet Velvet

Written by Steve R. Gagnon

At last, I take a few moments to collect my thoughts on the Tournament of the Phoenix experience. I must at first bring up how much Gwen Norwick and Jeffrey Hedgecock’s efforts and perfectionism translate into an event of such exceptional quality.

When I accepted, at a moment’s notice, the Marshal of the Field role, I had a rather preconceived idea of the job’s implications, and also, I must confess, some apprehensions. Normally, I enter the tilt yard clad in my armour and ready to charge, lance in hand. I was hoping that I wouldn’t envy my fellow jousters too much, sitting still on my horse, in all my regalia. Then again, since I was there, I wanted to do my best.

I realized soon enough the scope of the chief referee’s job. The moment I put those few yards of gold lined red velvet on, all the expectations, the responsibilities and the prestige attached to the title sunk in. The Marshal of the Field has to earn each competitor’s trust and respect and from his colleague judges as well. Along with applying the rules with rigor, he must display firmness and discernment. Easier said than done when the people you’re judging are good friends.

All these calls and decisions must also be made diligently, by imposing a certain rhythm to the tournament while remaining aware that under the Californian sun, six jousters in full kit are cooking in a mix of sweat and adrenaline. The three action packed challenges of the event often take unexpected twists, but gladly, the position comes with some precious help. In that regard, I want to salute the excellent work of Lady of Honour Justine Fisher and her Ladies Court, of the scoring judges – Micah "Admiral" Nelson, Joel Hill and Chris "The Nice" Godby.

I will from now on see the referees' jobs from a different angle, should they wear a black, striped or especially a posh scarlet velvet coat. I will never see my sport with the same eye again, and I am thankful to my friends Gwen and Jeff for giving me the chance to serve in this privileged position and to see the sport of jousting from a new viewpoint.

The Ladies and Marshals of the Tournament of the Phoenix 2014, left to right: Canon Purdy, Micah Nelson, Steve R. Gagnon, Justine Fisher, Joel Hill, Rin Hill, Chris Godby and Tori Burfield
(photo by J. Camacho Photography)

Related articles:
An Interview with Toby Capwell, Champion of Tournament of the Phoenix 2014

Jarek Struczynski Wins the Tournament of the Phoenix 2013

Esprit de Corps Dominates at the Tournament of the Phoenix 2012

Quebec Team, Order of the Dragon Wins “Le Tournoi du Lys d'Argent 2012”

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