Medieval man

Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 12:41 a.m.
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LaCrosse, Fla.-- Jonah Clemm-Toole, 18, a welder, metal crafter and Santa Fe Community College student will be part of Gainesville's 17th annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. Clemm-Toole said he has been crafting armor for over four years. Excluding the helmet he helmet he is wearing, Clemm-Toole crafted his armor for battle competitions with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun



Hoggetown Medieval Faire WHAT: An annual event celebrating the fun, food and culture of medieval times. Faire features - among many other highlights - jousting, equestrian games, magic shows, jugglers, bands, the Hoggetown Harps, knife acts, pony shows, stories and, of course, maypole dancing. The faire is produced by the city of Gainesville.
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, and Feb. 7-9. Festivities run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 7.
WHERE: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave.
COST: $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 5-17

In his rural home 15 miles north of Gainesville, in an area of scratchy cell phone reception, Jonah Klemm-Toole appears to be just another mild-mannered college student.
His small red barn of a workshop seems more apt to hold plants and tools rather than blowtorches and armor.
But Klemm-Toole is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism who welds his own medieval armor. And, perhaps, few would suspect the freckled student with the boyish face is, on occasion, Roland the warrior.
"All kids want to play knights in shining armor," he says. And, much to the envy of 5-year-olds everywhere, this 18-year-old plays it quite often. In fact, Roland the welding warrior has made an art of this fantasy world, which will be celebrated starting tomorrow at the annual Hoggetown Medieval Faire.
Klemm-Toole is a faire veteran who remembers tromping through the Gainesville festival in his "little Robin Hood outfit" as a child. He joined SCA as a young teen, and the costumes - and action - grew more intense.
The SCA is dedicated to preserving those pre-17th century times chronicled at the Hoggetown Medieval Faire, which runs at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. Reveling in the era's garb, dialect and customs, the guild is fanatical about detail - including the fighting.
"The fighting is really cool," said Klemm-Toole, noting he wasn't allowed to train for the fighting until he was 16. "If you watch two really experienced, very good fighters, it's like watching 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.' It's crazy."
While the Hoggetown Medieval Faire is a celebration for SCA, members keep the medieval world alive and well year-round on its Web site. There, the Florida panhandle is the kingdom of Trimeris, which boasts an intricate society of royalty and lords.
To the SCA, Jonah is Roland. Every member takes on a character. Some win titles that come with their own set of rules, right down to the sumptuary law that details the headwear of each title. A duke, for example, is expected to wear a coronet embellished with strawberry leaves or fleur de lis not to exceed 4 inches high.
The rules of the society selectively mimic medieval culture; no executions - absolutely no smoking.
Roland the warrior holds a rather impressive and odd resume. While making straight A's, he completed the welding program at Santa Fe Community College before graduating high school. At 18, he's mastered welding and holds down a part-time job at Gainesville Welding and Fabrication Co.
"He ... has good welding skills and is a quick learner," said Greg Upshaw, owner of Gainesville Welding.
"He's self-motivated. He's an excellent thinker. He's creative and resourceful. This young man will be successful no matter what part of the workforce he goes into," noted J.T. Mahoney, welding program coordinator at SFCC.
Showing off his armor, he opens his Tupperware tub of metal and pads. Like the SCA stand that sells Coca-Cola at the faire, his suit is an awkward mix of tradition and modern favorites. Aluminum dishes cover rollerbladers' elbow pads with dangling Velcro strips, while the heavy metal suits cover his hockey pants. The suit also relies on what he calls the most important piece of armor: duct tape.
"There's no such thing as a medieval pad," he says. "But we take advantage of technology."
The inside of his body armor is covered in an assortment of reflective paint and color; the panels are old street signs.
He wore these pieces while fighting in the Gulf Wars and Pennsic - two national SCA events that host battles as big as "Braveheart." The Gulf Wars come complete with a wooden castle with an archery tower. In Pennsic, Klemm-Toole says there were more than 1,000 on the field at one time.
"Pretty much every part of medieval times that is legally reproducible they do - obviously not the terrible things you read about in history books," he said.
These events also include re-enactment of medieval cooking methods, sewing and customs.
"I started fighting with the friends I'd met - not in armor because I wasn't allowed yet. And I found things that would make armor more functional. I knew welding would help," he said.
Through the group, he became interested in the welding processes used today to make body armor. He entered the dual enrollment program at 16 while attending Gainesville Trilogy School and earning a 4.0 grade point average. Since the program offered college classes for free, he gave welding a try.
"I figured I'd do one or two classes just to get the hang of it, but once I got in the program, I liked the people and I really liked welding, so I just went all the way through," he said.
By the summer after high school graduation, he completed 41 credits toward his Associate of Arts degree. That same summer, he and his uncle built a shop in the back yard. Klemm-Toole uses it to weld his own armor for himself and friends.
These days, Roland the warrior is a sophomore at Santa Fe - still holding that 4.0 GPA. He's preparing to transfer to the University of Florida for a degree in mechanical engineering.
Klemm-Toole will be at the medieval fair this year, likely at the archery booth. Standing in his authentic armor with not-so-authentic padding, he'll be letting children shoot arrows at him. And, in grand tradition, if the contestants hit him in the helmet, they win a free Coke.

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