It was a battle scene Friday at Dickinson Park as warriors with swords, lances, maces and shields clashed on the wide lawn between the skateboard park and wooden play space. Though the fighting was fierce, this skirmish was bloodless and yielded no victims.
This was Newtown Parks and Recreation’s Camp Dagorhir, a week-long camp for 8-to-14 year old residents where the emphasis was on imagination, creativity, safety and fun.
For the 15 or so campers, it was an opportunity to build skills in cooperation and teamwork and to create characters and strategies while whacking each other with handmade weapons.
The camp, which premiered last summer, is the brainchild of 19-year-old instructor Andrew Mangold, the son of Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold who discovered Dagorhir in a web search as a freshman at Newtown High School. He and his friends had constructed a huge village in the woods and were looking to incorporate fantasy and battle into the mix.
The official Dagorhir web site describes it as “dark age Europe meets Tolkien’s Middle Earth in a safe and action-packed national live action battle game.”
Mangold and his friends embraced Dagorhir and had regular sessions throughout high school at the Teen Center and at local parks, where they attracted the attention of lots of other children who wanted to join in the action.
The Hampshire College junior saw the potential for Dagorhir to be offered as a camp but wanted to be sure it could be run safely.
Mangold sought the expertise of a Dagorhir weapon-making specialist according to Mangold’s high school friend Kevin Walsh, who was enlisted to help with the day’s activities. Mangold often invites friends to participate in the camp, using them as characters in the fantasy scenarios the campers create.
The mock weapons are made of common construction materials normally used by plumbers and general contractors.
“The swords are made from PVC pipe and a thick layer of foam," said Walsh, who was clad in leather battle regalia. "If the weapons are made correctly they are safe.”
Breathless and perspiring after their battle, the campers sat in a circle with Mangold and recapped their fantasy scenario from the previous day.
“Does anyone want to make any changes?” Mangold asked.
“I think the wizard should have a special power,” one camper said.
“How about if the orcs are hospitable,” said another, referring to the soldiers and henchmen that make their appearance in fantasy stories.
With changes in story and roles ironed out and gold and weapons distributed, the orcs, merchants, wizards and werewolves went off to their respective realms but not without a “reprimand” from Mangold.
“If anyone is hoarding gold right now, we need to talk,” he said.
Wendy Holden, whose son Jonathan is a second-year participant, raved about the camp.
“Andrew is so good with the kids," she said. "There is such acceptance and teamwork. He is so good at getting a 9-year-old working with a 14-year-old. It's good exercise. This is the perfect camp and (Jonathan) just loves it.”