Knights, jousting, combat and costumes: What is Gulf Wars, the annual Lumberton, MS event?

Gulf Wars, the annual week-long event at King's Arrow Ranch in Lumberton, is infamous for knights, jousting and battles. But what stands out most is its tight-knit community.

"We make so many good friends and we make so many wonderful connections with people that you probably only see for a week or two across the year, but that connection that you get with them because you see them every Gulf," said Gretchen Allen Johns, who has attended Gulf Wars for more than a decade. "It's like my friends that I haven't seen in forever, so I've gotten so many hugs."

Gulf Wars is best described as a celebration — a mish-mash of demonstrations, archery and equestrian events along with "battles" and merchants selling their wares — with the ultimate goal to bring people together through a shared interest of pre-17th century culture.

This year marks the long-anticipated 30th Gulf Wars which was put on hold for two years due to COVID-19 — referred to as "the plague" among the event's participants.

Johns, known within Gulf Wars as Countess Gwen A'Brooke, makes the trip from Kansas City annually. She sells pottery that reflects different period styles at her merchant tent.

"I missed it quite a lot, all of my friends, the atmosphere, just not being in the modern world for a while," Johns said.

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Though it has been likened to a Renaissance festival, Gulf Wars defines itself as something different; It is more about education, community and hands-on participation.

Put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism — an immersive history group — Gulf Wars involves dressing in pre-17th century clothing and participating in tournaments, royal courts, feasts and dancing.

Society members take on personas, many complete with backstories and period-accurate costumes, earning awards and titles over the years.

Some attendees camp on-site for the week-long event, braving the unpredictable Mississippi spring weather.

The event draws people from across the country, and even outside the U.S. The annual attendance has been as high as 3,500, with at least 2,000 attendees this year as of Monday.

Colleen Jordon, whose society name is Kinbrough Lyons, made the trip to Gulf Wars from Connecticut. She runs Auntie Arwen's Spices, a merchant shop selling hand-mixed spice blends, teas and cocoa.

She said many members enjoy cooking dishes from different time periods and cultures, and her shop caters to those needs.

Jordon has attended Gulf Wars for six years, and is grateful to be back after the COVID-19 cancellations. Two years ago, when the pandemic was declared, Jordon had just arrived in Hattiesburg, having to immediately turn around and go home..

Lesley Wilson of Laurel has attended every Gulf Wars as a regular attendee or merchant. Know by her society name Osprey Von Orlamunde, Wilson runs Darkwood Armory, a shop that sells replica swords, daggers and armor from the Viking era through Elizabethan times. Most of the swords are blunt so they can safely be used in mock combat.

"We've been running for 28 years," Wilson said of the shop. "We make replica swords and armor that can be used against your friends more than once. … Mainly we do the theater prop style swords that you can take into battle and not kill anyone else."

Wilson did not hesitate to say that the best part of Gulf Wars was the people.

"We take care of each other, … You only get to see some of these people one time a year," Wilson said. "But it's like you never left off the year before and you just start your friendship right back the next."

Keith Bates and Cheryl Turbeville, known within Gulf Wars as Prince Connor McEldridge and Princess Dinara Torzhokskaia of Gleann Abhann, hail from Louisiana.

Turbeville encouraged newcomers to get involved and ask questions about anything they are interested in.

"If there's something that you're interested in, somebody does it, and not only that but is an expert and can probably teach you more than you want to know about it," Bates said.

If you go

A Society for Creative Anachronism membership is not required to attend the event, but is required for some combat activities. Members receive discounts on entry fees. To learn more, visit the society website.

  • What to know: Pre-17th century costumes are required for attendees. Pets are not allowed.

  • Cost: Entry fee for non-members is $85 Tuesday, $75 Wednesday and Thursday, and $60 Friday and Saturday. The one-time fee provides entry for the remainder of the event. Those ages 17 and younger are free, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

  • When: The event lasts through March 20. Gates are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. through March 18 and 8 a.m. to noon March 19.

  • Where: Kings Arrow Ranch, 26 Kings Highway, Lumberton, Mississippi.

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Contact reporter Laurel Thrailkill at or on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: 2022 marks 30th Gulf Wars in Lumberton after COVID cancellations