VFA-in-Exile Bulletin
October 7, 2021

This afternoon looks just about perfect for Competitive Squad practice, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Forecast for Saturday looks good, at least at this point, so unless things change and I send an update Friday evening (always check!), plan on Saturday classes as scheduled.

I have signed the VFA up for a station at the Middlebury Spooktacular on Halloween, but could use more costumed helpers. So far, we have Viveka, Adam, Karen and Dmitri. How about a few more? Let me know if you want in on the fun. All sorts of sword-themed costumes are encouraged, from the classic (pirate, musketeer), to the futuristic (jedi), to just wearing your modern fencing equipment. I have a few loaner theatrical swords someone could use (a claymore, a rapier, and a smallsword).

Calling all teen and adult fencers (those born 2008 or earlier), including newbies! Weather permitting, we are putting on one outdoor tournament before it gets too cold this fall. Who knows when we'll be able to put on another one. This is a chance to fence with electric equipment (loaners available for those who need them), meet fencers from the other group and a few from out of state clubs, learn how a tournament works, and have a fun adventure. Our local tournaments are friendly and welcoming to first-time competitors (and nearly everyone who works up the courage to try it enjoys the experience!). So even if you are in the Level 1 class, I encourage you to sign up.

What: The Monster Mask 2 Outdoor Tournament
When: Sunday Oct 17 (raindate Oct 24)
Where: Middlebury rec park, tennis court nearest the ice rink
Event times: Foil at 10:30 a.m. (please arrive no later than 10), Epee at 1 pm (please arrive no later than 12:30). You can fence both!
Entry fee: If you sign up by Oct 10 (this Sunday), $15 for one event or $20 for two. If you wait until next week to sign up, fees go up to $25 for one event/$35 for two.

Signing up well in advance not only saves you money, but it is super helpful to me in planning the tournament. Sign up now!

To register, get directions and see who else has signed up:

New to using the AskFRED website to sign up for tournaments? Instructions are here:

If you register and find you can't make it (if you are not feeling well, or for any other reason), please remove your name from the AskFRED list or contact the organizer (Viveka) and ask her to do it for you. Please don't leave us wondering about you, unless it really is a day-of emergency. There is no penalty for withdrawing if you need to, so go ahead and sign up early and get the discount!

Do you have questions about the tournament? Ask! Everyone was a beginner once.

From the results of my survey so far, it looks like we will have enough people to run the following indoor practices between October 25 and November 18
Mondays, IF we can find a location in the Middlebury area, 7-9 pm All-Level Class
Tuesdays, Shelburne town gym, 7-9 p.m All-Level Class
Thursdays, Shelburne town gym,7-9 p.m Competitive Squad

All-Level Class will welcome everyone who is currently fencing, including this fall's beginners, but not rank beginners starting from scratch. Fencers who have been inactive for a while are also welcome in the All-Level Class.
Not enough fencers signed up to run a separate Competitive Squad in Middlebury, but Middlebury fencers are very welcome to attend in Shelburne.

Haven't weighed in yet? I want to hear from everyone, including current newbies and inactive club members who are considering a return to fencing. Here is the link again:
Survey Link

Attention Middlebury fencers: I need your help finding an alternative location for us to practice in late fall, within about 5 miles of Middlebury. I currently have an inquiry in with Cornwall town hall (have not heard back yet). Already got a no from the town gym (booked solid). Do you have a personal connection to a space that might work? I am not looking for "I hear Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility has a parish hall", I am looking for "My fitness club has a dance studio, let me get in touch with them and get some info for you". Possibilities include: churches, town halls, social clubs, fire houses, fitness centers, etc - anywhere with enough space (equivalent to at least half of a basketball court), a suitable floor (wood preferred, but any smooth flooring will be considered, carpet is not ideal), high ceilings, heat, at least a little ventilation, and rent we can afford.

Responses to some of the comments from the survey

"Couldn't vaxxed people fence without masks?" and "I wish you would enforce mask-wearing more strictly" (naturally I got both of these, we all have different toleration for risk). Fencing is different from a lot of athletic activities in that you are face-to-face with your partner, moving in a limited space together. That makes the risk more like ballroom dancing than, say, a Zumba class where you are all facing the same direction and moving in your own area of the gym. Also, US Fencing continues to mandate mask wearing for all tournaments, and we want to train for the way we will compete. The benchmarks that will let us remove our face cloaks are: transmission rates in Vt drop to low (they are currently high in Chittenden County and substantial in Addison county), US Fencing drops the mask mandate for tournaments, and vaccines become available for our youngest fencers so that we can truly mandate vaccination for everyone at practice. That said, exercising with a mask on (under another mask, no less) is much harder than sitting at a desk wearing one. We all need water breaks, as well as a chance to wipe the sweat off our faces and breathe some fresh air for a few minutes. So, for the time being, we will continue with wearing masks during practice (including some of the solo warm ups we have been able to do maskless outdoors) but will spread ourselves out for physically distanced water breaks as often as needed. By the way, Shelburne town policy is that masks must be worn in all common spaces in the building (hallways, bathrooms).

"Evening classes are too late for my family, I like the weekend daytime better" Weekday evening classes are the norm for us; the weekend classes were an adjustment to allow outdoor fencing in daylight hours during the pandemic. As we return to normal operation, we will leave weekends free for tournaments. Also I am hoping my gigs as a musician will return (so weekends won't really work for me). Week nights work well for many adults, plus teens who have homework or after-school activities. We can not really start (and therefore end) much earlier, as our host schools' gyms are in use for school sports and after-school programs in the afternoon. For this fall's All-Level Class, I intend to teach from 7 until about 8:15 and leave the last 45 minutes for bouting. It is okay for younger kids and early birds to leave at the end of the structured class.

"I would like vaccination to be required". So would I... but I hate to completely exclude our 9-11 year old fencers who are not yet eligible. Here is what I want to do for now: require vaccination for all fencers age 12+, but allow the younger kids to participate on Mondays and Tuesdays (from the survey so far, I think we are talking about a small number of children). For Thursday Competitive Squad, which is restricted to teens and adults, vaccination will be required for all participants. When vaccinations become available for the younger kids, I expect them to get them, so that eventually, we can be a fully vaxxed group.

"Disappointed there is no fencing in December". Unfortunately, we have nowhere to meet. Town rec basketball starts in the Shelburne gym after Thanksgiving so we can not continue to use it. If anyone finds a suitable space for a few pop-up open fencing sessions in early December, I'm not adverse to it. I'll be visiting family the second half of December, so not available to organize anything then. More disappointing will be if we can not return to Mary Hogan and Charlotte Central schools in January. I do not know when I will know more regarding whether fencing will be possible at all over the winter. I welcome help in finding alternatives to the elementary schools for this winter as a back-up plan, anywhere from Burlington to Middlebury. Again, I am not looking for "I hear that venue X is nice", I am looking for actual help getting info and making arrangements.