Pennsic War FAQ
What is Pennsic?
Pennsic is an annual event, in the guise of a “War”, between the Kingdoms of the East and the Middle of the Society for Creative Anachronism Pennsic is also the largest Society event, with attendance in recent years exceeding 10,000.
The scheduled activities include large melee battles, tournaments, archery, stage performances, dancing, and hundreds of classes on medieval topics. The marketplace has over 200 merchants selling a variety of wares.
What are the policies guiding the event?
What dates does it take place?
The opening weekend of Pennsic is usually the last Saturday in July, and the event runs for 2 weeks. If you decide to attend Pennsic for the full two weeks, there will certainly be plenty for you to do.
But if you can only make it for a week or less, you’ll want to be there during the second week, as that’s when the battles and most other events are scheduled. A listing of the dates of future Pennsics is online.
Where is Pennsic held?
Coopers’ Lake Campground is a 500-acre site, located in Slippery Rock, PA. The campground has several shower houses and restrooms, and many porta-johns are rented for Pennsic. Water spigots are adjacent to most camping areas.
The camp store is stocked with groceries, ice, bottled water, and many camping items. The campground has a laundry room, an ATM next to the camp store, and a playground. In nearby New Castle and Butler there are restaurants, supermarkets, motels, laundromats, and other stores.
Moraine State Park, not far from the campground, has public swimming facilities.
How do I get there?
Check the directions page.
Who runs Pennsic?
Like any other SCA event, the Pennsic War is organized and run by an autocrat and staff – all of them volunteers. The staff is considerably larger than for a one-day event, consisting of over 60 division and department heads, plus their day-to-day staff, including Pennsic attendees (like you!) who volunteer to help out.
Coopers’ Lake functions (registration, the camp store, bank, cleaning services, groundskeeping, etc.) are handled by members of the Cooper and Wilver families and their staff. You can identify them by the blue hospital “scrubs” shirts that are reserved for their use.
How much does it cost?
The fee you pay is based on whether you arrive during the first week or the second week, and covers your camping and/or attendance through the end of the event. A full schedule of fees is online at the pre-registration site. The pre-registration discount is $10.
Paid members of the SCA receive a $25 discount (with proof of membership shown at time of check in).The gate fees are only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the actual cost of Pennsic will vary depending on factors unique to you. Some people can make it through a week at Pennsic spending only a couple hundred dollars, while others spend thousands.
When estimating how much Pennsic will cost for you, don’t forget to consider travel, accommodations, food, preparatory purchases of garb and camping gear, and shopping money.
Is there single-day admission?
There are no single day entry rates, and no refunds for leaving early. This includes family, friends and Clergy. Everyone attending Pennsic must pay the full fee regardless of when they arrive or how long they stay.
How do I pre-register?
While you don’t actually have to pre-register to attend Pennsic, there are advantages to doing so. For one thing, you save on the gate fees, and check-in will take less time. The other significant advantage to pre-registering is that it sets aside land for you with the group that you’ll be camping with. (If you’ll be staying in singles camping instead of camping with a group this is less significant, but pre-registering will still save you time and money.)
Click here for pre-registration.
How do I get a refund?
- You can request a full refund from Coopers Lake Campground.
- There are no refunds for leaving the event early.
Can I bring a minor who is not my child?
No, minors (under 18) can only attend if a parent or court-appointed guardian checks them in and remains at War for the entire time they are on-site. Court-appointed guardians must have a copy of the court documents with them.
Also, please note: no minor may be left unattended at the site. Children under the age of 12 must be within voice range or in sight of a responsible adult or teenager at all times. Minors under 18 must be in their encampment or in the company of a parent or court-appointed guardian after 11 pm.There are two exceptions to these rules: emancipated minors and married minors, who must present court documents at the time they check in. In these cases, adult gate fees will be applied.
How do I get a camping space?
There are two types of camping at Pennsic: group and single camping.
Camping space is set aside for those individuals or families who do not have a registered group to camp with. You can find out what spaces are still available when you check in.
- Single campers are not required to pre-register, but it will save you time and money at check-in.
- When you arrive at Pennsic, you will be informed what blocks in the campsite still have space for single camping.
- Single campers who arrive together may camp together. You may not save spaces for your friend(s) arriving later.
- Single campers cannot check in before Sunday of Land Grab weekend.
- If you prefer to have a confirmed camping space, and are able to arrive by Saturday of Land Grab weekend, you have the option of preregistering as a Group and going through the land allotment process below.
Groups go through a land allotment process to determine where their campsite will be.
Group registration takes place from January 1 – June 1.
- Any group of people can request a campsite at Pennsic — SCA local branches, households, friends with common interests, extended family, etc.
- Every group must have one person to act as their Land Agent. The Land Agent must be able to attend Land Grab weekend to claim and stake out the group’s land.
- Each group’s campsite size is determined by the number of people who have pre-registered to camp with them.
- The Cooper’s Lake Campground pre-registration form has a space to indicate the name of the group you are camping with.
- You must be in touch with the group’s land agent before pre-registering to camp with the group. The agent will give you the official registered name of the group, to avoid any confusion during the allotment process.
Why camp with a group?
Each person who pre-registers for Pennsic is allotted a certain number square feet of camping space. When people pre-register as part of a group, their individual land allotments are pooled together and the group then gets one large chunk of land, which they can subdivide and arrange as they choose.By camping as groups, people are able to pool their resources.
Instead of each person bringing their own camp kitchen, the group might instead arrange to bring one large one that will feed the whole group on a meal plan. Groups of families might make arrangements where the adults take turns watching all the children, allowing others to have free time.
Some groups arrange their tents so that there are common areas for socializing and parties. Others focus on creating period and/or themed encampments. Aside from these considerations though, there is another very good reason for camping with a group if you’re new to Pennsic – you’ll be surrounded by people who are more experienced.
Then, if you discover you’ve forgotten something or need help in some way, chances are good that one of your campmates will be able to assist you.There are many different types of groups. Some are composed of residents of a Barony, or members of a household.
You’ll also find guilds or people with similar interests of study, along with all sorts of other collections of people. While some groups are very restrictive as to whom they’ll allow to camp with them, many are very open. Try asking around in your local area or among people you know to see if they know of a group that you can join.
What is ‘Land Grab’?
The opening weekend of Pennsic is ‘Land Grab weekend’. By early July, the Land Department has worked out the block assignments for each group camping at Pennsic.
On the Saturday of Land Grab weekend, the campground is opened at 9 am to the land agents responsible for each group’s camping space. The agents for each block meet to work out the placement and boundaries of their camps. Many land agents negotiate via e-mail prior to Pennsic, but since the dimensions of each block can vary from year to year, the agents have to remeasure and make sure each group has a large enough space to accommodate their campers.Why do we have Land Grab?
Land Grab in its various forms dates back to Pennsic 17. Prior to that, Pennsic was a one week event, with all the battles taking place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With only 3-4,000 attendees, people came and set up camp wherever they wished, although certain groups had their traditional spaces, such as ‘Horde Hill’.
As attendance grew, so did competition for campsites, and group representatives began showing up earlier and earlier to claim their group’s campsite. People with enough free time could show up in July (or June!), pay the Cooper’s Lake Campground fees and set up their tent where they wanted their group’s campsite to be.
This was deemed unfair, both for groups who weren’t able to send someone out so early to claim a campsite, and for the Coopers, who needed to have the campground clear in order to get ready for Pennsic. Pennsic 17 (1988) was the first year where attendees received a numbered site medallion based on the order they checked in at Troll. The people with the lowest numbers were allowed to choose their campsites first.
For Pennsic 21, people submitted their group’s name and an estimate of their camp size prior to Pennsic, and were assigned a campsite by the Land staff. Pennsic 25 was the first year that the actual number of campers preregistered with a group was used to determine the size of the group’s campsite.
Do I need a tent?
Pennsic is a camping event. There are no cabins or bunkhouses provided (although some limited space is available for RV’s), so most people camp in tents. If you don’t own one of your own, try checking with friends or family to see if anyone has one you can borrow, or space in theirs that they can share.
Another option is to make arrangements to rent a tent from a rental company near Cooper’s Lake.While many people have period pavilions, they aren’t required; modern tents are perfectly acceptable.If you’ll be using a modern tent, don’t trust the capacity rating on the label or box. To come up with these ratings the manufacturers figure how many bodies can lie side-by-side on the floor of the tent.
To allow space for you, your possessions, and room to move around, it’s a good idea to divide the rating by three to four.So while a nominal four-person tent will be fine for one person, it’s going to be cramped for two. When choosing a modern tent, try to get one that has a full fly, as it will help to keep the tent dry and to maintain proper airflow.
If your tent doesn’t have a fly, you can always throw a tarp over the whole thing to keep it dry. But doing so can make it very hot and stuffy inside the tent. If your tent (whether it is modern or a period pavilion) has a floor, be sure you have a waterproof groundcloth underneath it to protect the floor from rocks, twigs, and decay.
Whatever style of tent you wind up using, it’s a good idea to do a test run by setting it up at home a couple of weeks before leaving for Pennsic. This way you can make sure you have all the necessary parts and that you know how to set it up. For used tents, this is the time to check for any areas in need of cleaning or repair. For new tents, this is the time to seal all the seams so they’ll be waterproof. It’s also not a bad idea to do a general check of the waterproofing of any tent, new or used, by running a hose over it. But be sure to let the tent dry completely before repacking it.
Some people like to bring two tents – one to sleep in and one in which to store their armor or other bulky or awkward gear. If you’re borrowing a tent and you can’t locate one large enough for you and your belongings, borrowing two for this purpose might be an option. Many people also bring shade awnings.
While some camping areas at Pennsic have lots of trees, others have none, so don’t count on having them available for shade.
When you set up your tent at Pennsic, be sure you stake it down thoroughly. If you have a self-standing modern tent, don’t fool yourself into thinking that your belongings inside the tent will weight it down and hold it in place. The wind can get very strong at Pennsic, and if your tent isn’t staked down, it will fly away. In fact, many people don’t bother with the plastic or thin metal stakes that come with most tents, opting instead to use heavy-duty metal stakes that will hold better.
When placing guy-ropes, you should flag them with strips of white or pale cloth or other material so they’ll be more visible in the dark, and people will be less likely to injure themselves tripping over them. When placing your ground cloth, be sure that it covers the entire bottom of your tent, but doesn’t stick out.
Any spots sticking out will funnel rainwater under your tent, leading to mildew and rot, not to mention soggy belongings.
Some people like to dig small trenches around their tents to direct rainwater away from the tent, particularly on any uphill sides. If you go this route, take care when removing the sod so you’ll be able to replace it later with a minimum of disturbance to the area.
Of course, if camping really isn’t your style, you can always choose to stay at a nearby hotel or motel. If you go this route you’ll be driving to and from the site every day, and no discount is given for staying off-site. But you will have the advantage of air conditioning and a guaranteed hot shower.
Can I keep a trailer/camper in my campsite?
You can keep a trailer in your encampment for storage or living space, but it must be disguised to look period. This can be as simple as covering it with fabric painted to resemble a stone wall, or as elaborate as you like – you will see quite a few trailers around Pennsic that people have turned into cottages, villas, gypsy wagons, even sailing ships, which they use as their living quarters.
Can I bring a Recreational Vehicle (RV)?
RV’s have their own camping area. There is no electricity, and no hookups of any kind, but there is water nearby. Arrangements for RV camping must be done through the Cooper’s Lake Campground.
What do the merchants sell?
You may have heard about the shopping at Pennsic, which is perhaps the best in the Known World. There are two merchant areas, one in the vicinity around the barn and the other across the road opposite the Troll Booth.In these areas you will find hundreds of merchant tents and booths covering several acres. It is often said that you can arrive at Pennsic with nothing but the clothes on your back and an unlimited budget, and outfit yourself completely for the entire war.
While this isn’t completely true, it comes close, as almost anything you might need for Pennsic or any other Society event is for sale at the merchants.Most merchants will accept personal checks with proper identification, and an increasing number will take major credit cards.
Few, if any, will accept foreign currency. If you’ll be buying armor, be sure it meets your Kingdom’s standards. If you’ll be buying weapons, be sure you won’t have any problems transporting them home, across any state or national borders or customs checkpoints you may need to pass. When browsing the merchants, you can stretch your shopping dollar by shopping with a pen and paper first.
Make a note of anything you think you might want, noting the price and the booth number of the merchant so you can easily find them again. Then when you get back to camp review your list and decide what you can actually afford. If there is something that you really want but can’t afford, remember that many merchants will do mail order. Get their business card or make a note of them in your merchant directory so you can contact them after Pennsic.
How can I be a Pennsic vendor/merchant?
Applications for Pennsic merchants are due by March 30th every year. Applications received after that date are placed on a waiting list.Visit the Pennsic Merchant Office for information on applying for merchant space, purchasing ads in the Merchant booklet, selling dates and hours, tax license information, and shipping merchandise to Pennsic.
Ads for the on-site merchant booklet are due by May 1st.
What else should I know?
While not unique to Pennsic, there are some health and safety issues you should keep in mind.
Fires, torches, and candles are common lighting sources at Pennsic, so be careful with flowing clothing or veils around these sources of flame.
- Do not attempt to have any kind of flame in your tent. People have been seriously injured or even killed by making this mistake.
- Avoid sleeping in your tent during the day, as this can lead to dehydration.
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and/or a hat or veil.
- If you decide to enjoy the party scene at Pennsic, remember that the drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. Also be sure to use your common sense. If you don’t know what something is or if someone won’t tell you what something is, don’t drink it. Don’t drink anything that glows in the dark, and don’t get falling down drunk.
- Though certainly not as bad as that of a typical city of 10,000+ people, there has been some theft at Pennsic. Obviously, don’t leave valuables unsecured in your camp. If you’ll be camping with a large enough group, you can try to arrange to always have someone in camp, keeping an eye on things. If this is impractical, at least get to know your neighbors so both you and they will be able to recognize anyone poking about who doesn’t belong.
Other good advice on camping safety, health, and hygiene is in Bart the Bewildered’s Pennsic War Guide.
Be sure you read and understand all of the Pennsic Site Rules (which appear in the Pennsic On-site Booklet).
If you have any questions about any of the rules, be sure you obtain answers before leaving for Pennsic, so you don’t have any unhappy surprises once you arrive.
What is there to do at Pennsic?
There many different things to do at Pennsic.
First, considering that this is the Pennsic War, there are an assortment of battles and archery shoots. If you’re authorized you can participate in these, and if not you can still watch.
In addition to the War Point battles, a variety of other tournaments take place over the two weeks.
If you don’t fight or shoot, but are looking for another way to contribute to the war, volunteers are always needed in many areas.You could work a shift at Troll, help out at Heralds’ Point or A&S Point, serve as a waterbearer, or perhaps even guard the gate of your Kingdom’s Royal Encampment.
Stop by Info Point to see what volunteers are needed!The Pennsic University offers hundreds of classes on almost any conceivable topic. The class listing is on-line, and will be in the Pennsic On-site Booklet.
To see what last minute changes or additions may have been made to the schedule, stop by A&S point, which will be located amongst the tents in the A&S block. There is a class track designed specifically for Newcomers. These classes offer basic information in subjects like Heraldry, Finding a Persona, Costuming, and more. Each class will include plenty of time for questions. Veteran SCA folks are welcome to attend too!
For grand pageantry, Opening Ceremonies is quite a site to see, with the Royalty of the Known World, numerous landed Barons and Baronesses, and their entire entourages processing out to the battlefield, where war is formally declared. On a slightly smaller scale, on various evenings the Crowns of the East, the Middle, and Æthelmearc, as well as several other kingdoms, will hold their Courts.
Many music and dance classes are offered through the Pennsic University, and in the evenings there are Balls and Dances in the Dance Pavilion and the barn. The Performing Arts Pavilion & Amphitheater feature theatrical productions, musicians, performers, and the Pennsic Choir. If Middle Eastern drumming and dancing are more your style, there are also a number of classes and performances.
Various people, households, and other groups host numerous parties all over Pennsic almost every night. Some of these parties are restricted or by invitation only, but many are open to all. The types of parties also vary widely.
Some focus on performances at a bardic circle. Some are themed to a particular time period or type of clothing, others to a particular preferred beverage. Some are mellow socials, some can get quite raucous. Whatever your interests, chances are good you’ll be able to find a party to your liking.
Take some time to enjoy the great shopping. Basic items like fabric, pottery, jewelry, and armor can be found, as well as specialized supplies. For a special night, go to Midnight Madness on Wednesday evening. The merchants offer special sale items, and there will be music and entertainers. Finish off the evening with dessert at the food court.
Don’t forget to do a bit of Pennsic sightseeing while you are there. Climb the hill behind the battlefield (Mt. Eislinn) to see a view of the entire encampment which is equally impressive during the day and at night. You might also want to take some time one evening to watch for the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12th.
Take a walking tour of the site with your camera, or if you prefer not to walk, just ride around on the shuttle buses.
Also, remember this is your vacation – take some time just to relax in camp. And let people that you’re new and/or that this is your first Pennsic. Who knows what other suggestions they may have for things to do?
How do I get to my campsite?
Walking is the most common means of transportation at Pennsic, even though site is quite large. Many paths are unpaved, and depending on where you’re camped, you may need to climb some hills.
Be sure to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes with you, as you’re going to be walking a lot.You can save yourself some walking by catching one of the shuttle buses that runs through the campsite and parking lot.
It picks up and drops off passengers at designated stops. Aside from bringing in your camping equipment or items you purchase on town runs, you may not use your car to travel around the campsite or for party-hopping.
What if I need help getting around?
The Pennsic staff understands that not everyone can easily ride on the buses. To assist those with mobility needs, the Mobility Assistance golf carts will run during the same times as the buses (9:00 am to 11:00 pm).The carts will be following the bus routes, and will stop at all bus stops, at the Town Hall tent (near the camp store), and at the Watch tent (near Troll).
The carts will take you to the bus stop nearest your destination. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.The golf carts are intended to assist those with mobility needs. We encourage those who are able-bodied to either walk or use the buses, so the carts are available for those who need assistance.
What about food?
The most economical way of feeding yourself at Pennsic is to do your own shopping and cook for yourself.
There aren’t any grills or firepits provided in the camping areas, so you’ll need to bring a camp stove or grill along with whatever other equipment you may need.The camp store sells ice, water, drinks, milk, eggs, bread, fresh produce, and a selection of snacks, dry goods and canned goods.
For other shopping you’ll need to head to one of the grocery stores off-site, within 20 to 30 minutes travel time.If you don’t have the equipment to put together a camp kitchen, or if you just don’t want to bother, there are other options:
- Many groups organize meal plans. These vary by which meals are covered, how much the price per meal/day is, and whether participants are required to do any cooking or cleanup. Ask among your friends or the people you’ll be camping with to see they know of meal plans you can join.
- Pennsic has multiple food courts (one near the Troll Booth, and one near the barn), where a number of food vendors offer a wide selection for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and other refreshments.
Even if you decide to join a meal plan or to eat at the food court, it is a good idea to bring a small cooler for beverages or small snacks.
What facilities does the campground have?
The camp store carries groceries, ice, drinks, and many camping items. They also have a propane tank exchange.
There is an ATM machine in front of the camp store that charges a $2 fee per transaction.
There is a small coin-op laundry on site, but the wait for washers and dryers can be very long during peak hours. If you prefer not to wait there are several nearby laundromats (check the Merchant Guide for their listings).
The campground has several shower houses with flush toilets at different points around the site, and during Pennsic a large number of portable toilets will be placed all around the campsite.
While the showers are all heated, the high attendance at Pennsic leads to a high demand on the hot water, often resulting in a tepid or even cold shower. Because of these considerations many people prefer to bring solar shower bags and erect stalls in their camps, and some even build heated showers.
There are water spigots scattered all over the site, and one should be within easy reach of wherever you camp.
If you don’t want to make repeated trips to the spigot, you can run a hose to your camp. You must use a Y-splitter (so that you leave at least one open spot for other hoses), and a vacuum breaker (to prevent backflow of dirty water).
You should be aware that the water at Pennsic has a very high mineral content. While it is safe to drink, many people don’t like it, and prefer instead to buy bottled water. Also note that there is no bathing or washing permitted at the water spigots, and you’ll need to dispose of your wastewater in a sump pit.
There is electricity available at a few campsites, including the one for Disability camping. Don’t expect to have electricity in your camp. There are outlets at the bathhouses to use for hair dryers and such, and if you have medications that need to be kept cold there is a refrigerator at First Aid Point for that purpose.
Next to the Post Office, the Coopers operate a (limited) bank on-site where you can cash travelers checks and get change for large bills. They don’t provide foreign currency exchange or credit card cash advances.
Postcards are for sale at the counter next to the bank. This is also where you can purchase/order aerial photos of Pennsic later in the week.
Can I stay in a hotel?
There are several hotels and motels in nearby New Castle and Butler.
Where can I found stuff that’s lost and found?
Lost and Found is located in the main Security tent. An auxiliary Lost and Found station will be open on the main battlefield one hour before each battle.
Medication turned in to Lost and Found will be taken to First Aid Point.
What about parking my car?
The parking lots are at the north and west ends of the campsite (see map).
You can take the bus to and from the lots. Passes for closer-in paid parking (located near the battlefield) can be purchased for $20 at the “War Room” trailer, located next to the large metal barn downhill from Troll.
You will need to turn in the parking pass you were issued when you checked-in.
Can I bring my pet to Pennsic?
Absolutely no pets are permitted at Pennsic. This includes (but is not limited to) ferrets, snakes, birds, cats, and dogs. Service animals may be brought to Pennsic, coordinated through Disability Services.
What are the quiet hours?
Quiet hours are 2am – 7am. Please be considerate of your neighbors when contemplating high-decibel night-time activities (drumming, piping, singing, etc.)
Can I swim in the lake at Pennsic?
No one is permitted to swim in the lake. Nearby Moraine State Park has lakeside beaches and public swimming facilities.
What is the weather like at Pennsic?
During Pennsic, days can be very hot and humid – temperatures of over 100°F (37°C) are not uncommon. Meanwhile, temperatures can drop drastically at night, even into the 40′s (4°C).
There is usually at least one big rainstorm during the two-week period, sometimes with high winds.
Because you’ll be outdoors many more hours of the day than usual, be sure to wear sunscreen, even on overcast days. A hat or veil on your head will not only keep the sun off your skin and out of your eyes, but will also help to keep the sun from cooking your brain.
While sunglasses are not period, many Pennsic-goers do choose to wear them.
Be sure you drink enough water and keep your electrolytes balanced, and remember that alcohol and caffeinated beverages will dehydrate you. Heat can also diminish your appetite, so be sure you eat enough for your activity level.
Don’t count on having trees in your camp – if you want to have shade, bring a shade fly to create your own.
For those times that it gets cold or wet, a good cloak is a treasure. But if you don’t have one, don’t hesitate to wrap a blanket around yourself, wear a raincoat, or even use an umbrella.
Staying warm and healthy is far more important than looking historically accurate. As a precaution against serious storms, many people keep a dry set of modern clothing in a waterproof container or in their car.
Bring enough bedding to keep you warm at night. A dry cloak makes a great extra top blanket when the temperature drops. Also, a snug cap will keep your head, and you, warm.
Remember that air mattresses act as convection cells, and will suck the heat out of your body and pump it into the ground. Try to get it off the ground, or put something insulating between it and the ground or between it and you.
Also remember to make your bed before the sun sets. Otherwise, when you return at night you might find that the evening dew has settled on your bed, leaving you with clammy sheets.
There are more details about Pennsic weather patterns in Bart the Bewildered’s Pennsic guide.