A Pyrotechnic Passion
The Norman Medieval Fair has transported visitors to a fantastical age of chivalry and tradition for nearly 40 years through staple performances, peddlers and people such as the Saltfork Craftsmen. Every year, the group of blacksmiths revives the centuries-old trade for fairgoers, like Assignment Radio’s Molly Evans, who spoke with member Brahk Hadick about his pyrotechnic passion for turning scrap metal into something unexpectedly beautiful.
It’s 9 a.m. on a brisk, 40-degree April morning, an hour before the annual Norman Medieval Fair commences in Reaves Park. Frequent gusts of wind carry the familiar smells of cinnamon roasted almonds, freshly cut grass and salty, savory turkey legs. Apothecaries arrange their plethora of herbal teas, fortunetellers fiddle on their cell phones and knights bundle up in hooded sweatshirts and chainmail to pass the time before the Royal Procession initiates the anticipated weekend of fantasy and merriment.
For longtime fairgoers, the lounging camels, cardboard fortresses and busty damsels are familiar sights. The smells of kettle corn, a hot ham and cheddar and funnel cakes are old friends. But that sound. That incessant banging of hammers on nearly molten steel will never cease to intrigue visitors of the modern day.
Brahk Hadick, a 20-something blacksmith of the Saltfork Craftsmen, demonstrates the age-old craft not only at the annual Norman event but also all around Oklahoma and a few surrounding states.
"We have over 600 members stretching from Kansas to Texas and all throughout Oklahoma and probably Arkansas as well," Hadick Said
Hadick started as the organization’s youngest member at age 13.
"When I was a kid, I was the one that was always getting into the matches and burning everything I wasn’t supposed to, so that was probably one reason," Hadick said. "I love being able to take something worthless or trash and junk and make something worthwhile or if nothing else an awesome conversation piece out of it."
As a craftsman, Hadick can make weapons akin to Medieval sorcery or knifes and canes for practical use, but his favorite piece to weld is much more romantic.
"There’s something that I like to make called a Russian Rose," Hadick said. "And what you do is you have a straight bar of metal and from that you’ll end up making a blossom, stem and a leaf all from that one straight bar, and it doesn’t look anything like it was when it started. It went from this piece of garbage to an awesome mantelpiece.
Machinists, printers and even psychologists make up the Saltfork Craftsmen, but Hadick, who works for a gas company, wishes he could take on blacksmithing full time because it’s his true passion.
"Some people, like maybe for the psychiatrist, it might be an outlet for aggression and stress," Hadick said. "I know I use it for that when I get overwhelmed at home or with work. It’s my passion for a whole lot of things I guess. It’s been a part of my life for almost half my life."
He may be “just Brahk,” but Hadick is surely a character among the 10 or so craftsmen working at the booth.
"Most of the time, I’m only wearing my kilt, and so I’m the “Naked Blacksmith,” and it’s been that way for several years," he said. "But it’s too cold for that right now, and so I’m wearing a shirt."
Hadick says if you’re not afraid to get burnt and you like working with your hands, blacksmithing is a good trade to pick up.
"Careful this might splatter, which hurts like hell."