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OCEAN ISLE BEACH — On Valentine’s weekend this year at the Ocean Isle Inn, you wouldn’t have to travel far to find a knight in shining armor.
The Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux (KOFL), a nonprofit group with chapters in eight states and the District of Columbia, recreates in the lives of its members an Order of Knights dedicated to the code of chivalry, holding each other to a standard of character as befitting a modern tribute to the invaluable contribution of Knighthood to culture and society.
Because of the group’s nonprofit status, an annual business meeting is required by law. This year, the organization made its way to Ocean Isle Beach for the first time for a weekend full of festivities.
The Fiat Lux, in its ninth year of existence, operates under the IRS’s 501(c)(3) guidelines as a private membership foundation.
Ed Pekarek, or “Sir Ed” as he is called by the group’s knights and squires, is the Supreme Grand Knight Beacon. He’s assisted by chief operating officer Karl Strohnminger.
Pekarek emphasized the Knightly Order is a legitimate knighthood.
After exhaustive research and contact with the College of Arms in London, England, and the State Department of North Carolina, The Fiat Lux is recognized as an official knighthood, entitling its dubbed members the honorific of “Sir.”
Stronhminger started the group on his back patio with a group of six men in January 2005. One of the original six was Karl’s son, Stephen, who made the trip to Ocean Isle last weekend.
“I always had a vision with this kind of scope,” Strohnminger said. “The mission has certainly changed. It started with a bunch of guys who liked sword fighting. Now we’re one of the most charitable organizations in the state.”
The organization does not have a specific charity to which it likes to donate, but Pekarek said the group has donated money to the Autism Society of North Carolina, local hunger relief efforts, American Cancer Society, the Wounded Warrior Project, and several other organizations.
The Knightly Order travels across the country to entertainment shows, festivals and Renaissance faires, among other events.
“Fiat lux is Latin for ‘let there be light,” Pekarek said. “Our mission is the light. We want the men involved in this organization to become better men, and we want to help charities in any way we can. That’s our mission.”
On Saturday, Feb. 15, the group held a sword-fighting tournament on the beach at 9 a.m. before retreating inside for its annual business meeting at 2 p.m. Following the two-hour conference, the highlight of the weekend took place, with nine competitors in the Tournament of the Gilded Phoenix, where entrants wore steel armor and used real steel swords to do battle. The swords were tipped and edged to prevent injury.
Pekarek said that wasn’t always the case.
“It took one good piercing for us to change that rule,” he said. “We’re all about the safety of these individuals. If we see something happen, we’ll change the rules accordingly for safety purposes.
“When those guys go into the ring for a fight, they are not enemies. They are opponents in a sport.”
Pekarek said in his 12 years as a semi-professional sword fighter, he’s seen several injuries, including a fractured skull, a trio of concussions, fractured collarbone and a six-stitch piercing to the triceps.
“Statistically, though, it’s safer than soccer,” he said.
Pekarek said the participants in the sword-fighting tournament wear as much as 125 pounds in steel armor to protect themselves from the blows of their opponent.
“It ranges anywhere from 75 to 125 pounds of armor,” he said. “On an August day when the sun’s right on top of you, it gets warm in there.”
On this trip, 29 knights, seven squires and 12 ladies of the court were in attendance. Stronhminger said the group has 57 knights nationwide, along with 12 squires who are apprentice knights.
To become a member of the group, one must meet certain standards. The Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux is a fraternal brotherhood. Membership is open to those who want to join an organization that ministers to the needs of men. A prospective knight or squire must be a U.S. citizen who has reached his 21st birthday or be an honorably discharged or active U.S. serviceman. Criminal felony or morally corrupt convictions may bar membership, for which proof of good character is required. All members are asked to make a public profession to follow the Code. Finally, all prospective members must be sponsored by two members.
“It’s a significant financial commitment, and it takes significant effort for someone to be a member,” Pekarek said.
Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.