Hail warriors! As we start to drop the curtain on 2023, we are given the opportunity to look back and reflect on the past year's events, triumphs, losses, and lessons. And all I can say is, what the hell was that?
By far, 2023 has been our busiest year. When it started back in what feels like January of ten years ago, Warriors of Ash was but a band of nomadic swordplayers just trying to survive in the rubble of the post-COVID shutdowns era. We trained on the Carrier Park baseball fields, much to the confusion of the local ultimate frisbee teams, and hoped to find a home soon.
Thanks to our perseverance and generous donations from the community, our wildest dreams came true in February. We signed the lease to our brand new War Room in Biltmore Village and immediately started tearing the place apart. Words cannot express how good it feels to have a space to train in once again. We've been able to expand the number of classes that we can offer our members as well as provide them with gear so that they can start their own HEMA journeys, and more to that point our numbers have swelled beyond what we could have hoped for when the year began. Our list of active members has quadrupled over the past 10 months. It's a joy beyond compare to share our love of HEMA with the community. So from the bottom of our warrior hearts, thank you for all the support. Every time someone gets stabbed (by a sparring-safe weapon, of course), it is because our amazing community stuck by us during the most difficult times. We truly are blessed.
WoA has also found a space to hold events at Fae Nectar Meadery. Visiting Fae Nectar is like stepping into a hobbit's daydream. There's good music, good food, good company, good stories around a fire, a humongous catapult, and vendors selling their hand-crafted wares. Oh, and lots of mead. (It may be a bit chilly now, but I highly recommend the mead slushies when they return next summer. They're highly excellent.) And all this takes place before the backdrop of Chimney Rock. Fae Nectar has truly built something special, and if you haven't visited yet then you're in for a real treat when you do. If you have already, then you know what I'm talking about.
We hold monthly events at Fae Nectar that have all been more fun than a band of warriors should ever expect to have. We give demonstrations, hold tournaments in front of a live audience, and best of all get the opportunity to talk to curious folks about what we do. Meeting new people is always my favorite part. There's nothing quite like the look on somebody's face when they hold a sword for the first time. Please come and visit us at our next event at Fae Nectar on December 9. You can fire arrows at marauding warriors, watch a full-contact sword fighting tournament, and maybe even sign up to start your own HEMA journey while enjoying the magic that is Fae Nectar. These are family-friendly events, so bring the little ones as well. The kids love us.
Our summer months are typically spent training and competing in tournaments around the Southeast, and 2023 was no different. We had warriors competing at Queens Gambit in Charlotte, Raleigh Open, others. Plus, we were able to bring back one of our major yearly events: Festival of Heroes. And this year's FoH was an event to remember. We had fighters from all over show up and compete in 2-on-2 brawls. It was a long day full of furious action, and it was great to see friends from other HEMA schools in the region. This was the first year we've been able to hold Festival of Heroes since 2019, and to say it was a special day for us would be a huge understatement. This is what we train so hard for.
So what's on the horizon for Warriors of Ash in 2024? So glad you asked because we're not planning on slowing down any time soon. The Asheville CelticFest is happening February 17 & 18, and you can find us there. We will be hosting another tournament where you can see warriors from around the region competing for glory in full-contact sword duels, and we'll have activities for the both the young and the young at heart. It'd be great to see you there and share our sport with you. And of course, we will continue our partnership with Fae Nectar Meadery where we will be competing and giving demonstrations. Do yourself a favor and check them out. You certainly won't regret it. You can follow Fae Nectar or Warriors of Ash on social media to get more information on those events. With all of our new students we will be training hard for 2024's slate of regional tournaments. They have been working their kilts off, and I'm very excited for them to show their skill in the ring.
How can you get involved with Warriors of Ash? Well, you can always sign up for classes through our website or by finding us at any of the above events. Interested, but sword fighting not really your thing? That's fine too. We can always use people who are good at social media, outreach, and schmoozing in general. The sport of HEMA is an amazing community full of amazing people, and we welcome all who are interested in joining.
As I mentioned before, none of this is possible without your generous support. Warriors of Ash is non-profit organization, and nobody involved makes money off of it. Your donations help us keep our doors open, provide gear and weapons to our students, and make sure that we can travel to the events we compete in. With 2024 looking to be even busier than this year, we are once again asking for your support. You can donate to us directly here with a tax-deductible gift. You can also find us at any of our events and either donate to us directly, purchase a piece of our merchandise (it makes a great holiday gift), or buy a raffle ticket with prizes that include a bunch of your favorite local establishments. Our gratitude toward our community is beyond words. We literally couldn't do it without you, so please help us keep the warrior train rolling.
We look forward to seeing you soon. I hope 2024 is full of blessings for you and yours. Keep fighting!