116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When you think of a Renaissance festival, you may picture dueling knights, big turkey legs and giant medieval tents. But it is the re-enactors behind that body armor who bring the Middle Ages to life.
The Guardians of the Black Forest is an Iowa living history group that encapsulates medieval life and fighting. The re-enactors meet up several months out of the year to train for Renaissance fairs around the area. Some of their biggest performances are in the Amana Colonies and at Sleepy Hollow park in Des Moines.
Founder Chris Wenger, of Ottumwa, likes to ensure that the Guardians of the Black Forest, unlike some other groups, provides a historically accurate performance. Many of the members of the group possess distinctive skills that can translate to medieval life, such as being a blacksmith and a leather worker.
Founded in 2007, the group has slowly grown to be one of the most prevalent historical re-enactment groups in the state, with a large group of members and multiple chapters around Iowa. The group is a motley crew of different backgrounds and personalities that come together for the love of history.
Anna Barton has been a member of the Guardians for 10 years. She was introduced to the group when she worked at a Renaissance fair. As she began to get to know Wenger and the other members more, she felt like the group was a second family. Over the last decade the group has become a big part of her life — even having Wenger officiate her wedding.
The members agree that the group provides a safe space to be authentically themselves. During member meet ups and rehearsals, the bonds between members is apparent, which makes their performances seem even more authentic.