Connor Ward engaged in an unscheduled swordfight at the Colorado Renaissance Festival this past weekend, when he ran out of the crowd and grabbed a weapon. Details were few — but the jokes were many, since the miscreant was subdued by a costumed woman described as a "wench" — and the story went global. Turns out that was no wench, but a "head squire" as well as Brittany Beard, wife of the owner of Noble Cause Productions, a theatrical jousting troupe that puts on professional performances at fairs.
But this incident was strictly amateur hour. Brittany's husband, Bryan Beard, had just finished an official joust when Ward went all medieval. Brittany, who was walking with her baby, provides this eyewitness account on American Jouster:
So today was quite the day! As I was pushing Belle in her stroller towards Bryan, where he was signing autographs after the 2 p.m. joust show, a man comes running out of the crowd, hurtles the fence around the joust list, runs to the middle of the field, grabs Bryan's almost $400 sword where it lies in the sand, hurdles back across the joust fence and takes off running with it.
I thought I was the only one in the joust crew who saw what just happened, so I put Belle's stroller in park and took off running after the guy. I got a hold of his shirt but he kept going and it ripped in my hands. I kept running after him and kicked him in the back of the legs. When he stumbled from the kick, I jumped on his back and pulled him down on top of me where I held him in a headlock. Luckily, our head squire, Noelle, had also seen what happened from across the arena and was tracking me chasing this guy in the crowd. She caught up with us only seconds after I got him to the ground. She took the sword from him and helped me restrain him with her fist in his chest.
Then Noelle and I ended up holding him there for a good five minutes while a bystander ran for security and people crowded around us taking photos and video. I honestly think some of them thought it was still part of the joust show.
Bryan only realized all this had happened after he looked over and noticed Belle in her stroller with a family he didn't recognize standing around her. When he confronted them, they told him that a lady had taken off chasing a man who stole a sword and they were waiting until that lady came back. Bryan grabbed Belle and ran up the hill where he found Noelle and me, still restraining the thief. He handed Belle off to me and took over holding the guy until the police showed up and handcuffed him.
Apparently a photographer was there and submitted the shots he captured to the Denver news station which in turn reported the story this evening to the best of their ability.
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That photographer was Steve Chapman, who was taking photos for his travel blog, Tumbleweedtourist.com. Now his shots of the "wench" subduing Ward have caught the attention of media outlets around the world. "I've never been inside a viral story before," says Chapman. "This has been a surreal, fascinating, exhausting experience." 9News and the Denver Post picked up the story Saturday, he says, and NBC and the AP were on it by Sunday night. From there it went global, with a London paper running the story yesterday and "today Australia picked it up," he notes. Not surprisingly, traffic on his website has doubled, then tripled.
Douglas County authorities have charged 22-year-old Ward — a Colorado Springs resident who was reportedly in his cups at the time — with resisting arrest, attempted assault on a police officer and theft. Huzzah!