Over the weekend I was at Salute, a military-themed festival in the National Show Centre near Swords. (No, I hadn't heard of the National Show Centre before this either.)
It. Was. Excellent.
Now admittedly the vikings weren't there, and I didn't see any Romans around either - but there was a surprising amount to see and do. I expected that Saturday afternoon would be enough to get through it all, but it wasn't and I happily returned on Sunday.
The Irish Great War Society ran "living history" scenarios, based on training drills used in WWI. Interesting facts scattered throughout, in particular their partially re-enacted discussion of "trench raids" to capture enemy soldiers for information. I asked a member of the Society if it (the Society) had a particular resonance or popularity in Northern Ireland. I suspect this is a regular question for them, and the answer, I'm told, is no: it has many members from both North and South.
There was an airsoft firing range. I did my bit for the public good by taking payments for a while to give other airsofters a break. I was surprised by the steady flow of enthusiastic members of the public willing to part with €2 to shoot. (They overwhelming went for the approach of firing full-auto at the target - convenient for the people manning the range, as this is much faster than carefully aiming for each shot.) It has to be positive for airsoft that many people who turned up to fire the guns said they'd just recently started playing.
There were many different types of military vehicles, from armoured support vehicles, to light militarised pick-ups to a Challenger tank. I'm unsure if it's true but I heard that such a tank was sold for a mere €20,000. A bargain! Although tanks of course use a lot of fuel, measuring fuel efficiency in gallons per mile rather than miles per gallon. Perhaps "fuel efficiency" is entirely the wrong phrase...
There were re-enactments from WWII. There were medieval weapons demonstrations. There were people wandering around in period uniform for no particular reason. It was a sunny weekend and a very enjoyable event.
To add a final more sombre note: one man I talked to was a former Serbian special forces soldier. He had a certain contempt for the entire affair, feeling that no-one who had been in a real war - at least one with the massive savagery of the Yugoslav wars - would regard war as a theme suitable for entertainment. (He was there because his kids wanted to go.) He described having once eaten almost nothing for 25 days while being persued by the enemy; he also told me about how his brother was killed. I have no way to know how much of what he said was accurate, but I also can't dismiss his point.
Plenty more photos to come! For now, here's a Challenger tank in a rally-style slide...