During what was arguably the most important moment of Tommy Luginbill’s life, his girlfriend Alison was much more worried about a horse.
Luginbill has just placed fourth in the 2015 national jousting championships in the novice class and tradition dictated he take a knee and present a token of appreciation to a loved one.
So, after spearing several rings during the tournament, Luginbill dropped to his knee and took out a ring of a different sort.
“Before she realized what was happening she said, ‘You didn’t tack up your horse. You left your horse. You have to put it back,’” Luginbill recalled. “And I was like, ‘No, I’m staying here. I’m proposing,’ and she’s like, ‘What?’”
Now happily married, the couple will be competing in the 154th annual Christ Church Jousting Tournament, which will be held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 28, in Port Republic.
“We’re very excited,” said Peter Cochran, a liaison with Maryland Jousting Tournament Association. “It’s sort of the church’s homecoming for people who have left the area. And we also think those people are very much in favor of progress, but they do cling to tradition and that’s what we’re looking at here.”
The jousting tournament, which was not held last year due to COVID-19, will get underway at noon with a parade of riders at the church in central Calvert County.
Jousters have nine seconds to race down an 80-yard track on a horse and attempt to spear three rings, in sizes ranging from 1¾-inch to ½-inch in diameter. The rings are hung 6 feet, 9 inches above the track and the three arches are spaced 30 yards apart.
“When we were dating, Alison would wake up at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, and she would drive to St. Leonard to her grandmother’s farm,” Luginbill said, referring to Cove Farm, which is a few jousting tracks away from Christ Church. “And basically if I wanted to spend any time with her on the weekends I had to decide if I wanted to start joining her. I thought it was kind of funny because I was extremely allergic to horses at the time, but I fell in love with the animals so I started getting allergy shots.”
Luginbill said he was introduced to the sport by Alison along with Vivian Fisher-Flaherty, who operates Tynewydd Riding Program in St. Leonard.
“The hardest part is being able to keep your body still,” Luginbill said. “You kind of do a crouching position like if you were doing a squat and that keeps your body from moving. You also have to be able to keep your legs really tightly clenched to the side of the horse and your heels down, because if you don’t your body’s going to shake everywhere and you’ll miss the ring.”
The Rockville resident said the Maryland state sport will make a rider’s hip flexor and calves “burn really bad.”
He said it took him a few tries to spear the larger rings and, as for the smallest diameter rings, “I’m not ever going to pretend I’ve gotten one of those.”
Luginbill, who is known as the Knight of Roxbury, will compete in the amateur class while Alison (Maid of Cove Farm) will compete in the novice class.
Cochran said it takes about five years for a horse and rider to get in tune with each other.
“[Vivian] used to get mad at me in the beginning because she’s wanted me to take my time with the horse and not sprint,” Luginbill said referring to Maggie, a cross between a Percheron and quarter horse. “But I was like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to let her go. She may be a large horse but she can move.’”
Cochran said this year’s tournament will feature “more things than we usually have” such as an extended children’s area with pony rides, crafts, balloon artist and petting zoo.
There will also be a bazaar from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — for the first time ever credit cards will be accepted — that will feature attic treasures, books, baked goods, toys, a country store, lemonade stand, meatball stand, hot dog stand and snow cones. The old one-room schoolhouse at the site will also be open at that time.
The Port Tobacco Pickers will perform and there will be organ concerts in the church.
“We want to have something for everyone,” Cochran said.
To-go dinners will be available for $24. The dinner — which allows diners to select two of any option or double up on chicken or ham — will come with two sides, a roll and a cookie. To reserve a dinner, call 410-586-0565 between 9 a.m. and noon.
For more information about the annual tournament, go to the website https://allsaints1692.org/event/154th-calvert-county-jousting-tournament/.