Royalty and community melded together for National Gardening Week on June 5 at the Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm. Fifteen preschoolers at Logan Square’s Christopher House (3255 W. Altgeld St.) took a break from schooling and helped Queen Maria Isabella and her knights from Medieval Times plant vegetables and flowers in the community garden.
The event is part of Chivalry in Action, an initiative a part of Medieval Times that helps give back to communities in several ways, including food drives, soup kitchens and rebuilding efforts after tornadoes and hurricanes.
Shawn Block, Lord Marshal to the Queen and Master of Ceremonies, enjoyed being able to work with kids in the community, saying his favorite part was helping the children learn to grow plants.
“Anytime you can help facilitate a love of the cultivation of things that you know may be getting missed in your typical day to day [is my favorite part],” Block said.
Allyssa O’Donnell, who plays Queen Maria Isabella, agreed with Block about encouraging young kids to be involved in the community. “I think our world could be a better place if we were all more focused on helping others rather than just being focused on ourselves,” O’Donnell said. “I think starting with kids of a young age, when they’re so excited to learn and excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves, is really great.”
Photos by Erin Brown
Alec Lukie, who plays the Black and White Knight, said, “It’s always fun seeing happiness and joy spread around.”
During rotating shifts of watering and labeling wooden identifiers, the children and royalty planted tomatoes and sweet peppers. These vegetables bring special meaning: the Medieval Times’ horses are from the Andalusia region in Spain, wherein the medieval era those vegetables were the largest export to the rest of Europe.
However, it wasn’t just the children learning how to plant. Michael Kiburz, who plays the Green Knight, had never planted anything before, saying he accidentally buried the plastic first.
The children not only had fun planting vegetables and flowers but also interacting with the Queen, Lord Marshal and the knights. With curiosity abound, the children gawked and asked questions about the knights’ swords and armor. The Lord Marshal had dragons on his tunic, which gathered many oohs and ahs. Two children took turns guessing the Queen’s age—one said 12 and the other 100 (in reality the Queen is 27).
The enjoyment from everyone involved was quite clear.
“In the medieval era everything was crops, harvesting, growing and merchants and all that stuff, and nowadays it’s nothing but iPhones and iPads and internet,” Block said. “So it’s good to see kids getting outside and also getting their hands dirty…watering flowers and vegetables.”