A knight clad in chain mail sits atop a horse draped in a black-and-white checkered covering. Dozens of yards ahead, another knight also awaits the call of battle. Horns sound, crowds yell and the horses charge, hurling the two warriors at each other, lances first.
It's jousting time at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival.
This year's fall festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at Sedgwick County Park. The event gives visitors a chance to immerse themselves in medieval times.
Festival director Richard Cathey said the royal pageantry never grows old for him.
"I still have that feeling of being swept away to a different time and a different place," he said. "With the dress and the speech, there's really no limit to how deep you can get into it."
The festival, in its 11th year, will feature fire-breathers, magicians, dancers, jousting, fencing and period-based weaponry battles, all provided by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
Some crowd favorites will be back, but Cathey also tries to bring in new performers each year. One will be "The Didgeman and Scarlett," a duo that performs an interactive show with music, education and a bit of vaudevillian humor.
Master falconer Robert Aanonsen and the birds of The Royal Gauntlet will be back. Aanonsen demonstrates how the birds hunt and track their prey and will do so with a 3-foot tall Eurasian eagle owl at this year's festival.
But the festival's most popular attraction is jousting, in which two combatants carry a shield and lance as they ride a horse directly toward each other. The combatants try to knock each other off of the horse or hit the point of their lance to the opposing knight's chest or shield.
It looks realistic: Think professional wrestling, but with the Knights of the Round Table.
A group called JoustEvolution, based in Des Moines, Iowa, will perform this year's battles; Cathey said they skillfully merge medieval showmanship with physical might.
"I think people really lose themselves in the illusion," said Kevin Coble, director of JoustEvolution. "I think the average person — and they know it's a show, they know it's been scripted and that we want to protect each other — will start screaming and yelling once it begins."
Coble and the other jousters don 10-pound iron helmets and full plate armor weighing about 100 pounds to perform.
"Your vision is limited; your hearing is very limited," Coble said. "It deadens a lot of the senses. As you basically are getting ready, you are handed your shield, handed your lance, and your heart stats beating. It's an adrenaline rush."
The excitement is contagious, Cathey said. He attended his first renaissance festival at the age of 12 and was hooked.
"Immediately it was something where I'm saying, 'How old do you have to be to get into this?' " Cathey said.
If you go
Great Plains Renaissance Festival
What: Featuring jousting, live entertainment, arts and crafts and food from the medieval era
Where: Sedgwick County Park, 6300 W. 13th St.
When: 10 a.m. Sat.-Sun.
How much: Adult weekend pass $15. Advance single-day tickets $8, free for children at Agents of Comics, Damm Music, Book-A-Holic, Chisholm Trail 8 Theatres; $10 and $3 at the gate.
For more information, go to www.greatplainsrenfest.com.