Every other week, 60 to 70 sword- and shield-bearing foes do battle at Grove City's Gantz Park.

Every other week, 60 to 70 sword- and shield-bearing foes do battle at Grove City's Gantz Park.

Though the sight of young people running around in outrageous get-ups, brandishing brightly colored homemade weaponry might perplex the occasional passerby, the group of mostly high school students are just engaging in Live Action Interactive Role-play, or LAIR. The activity has quickly grown in popularity with Grove City and Central Crossing high school students, many of whom spend up to six hours at a time at events.

"There's no real cliques involved in this," said team captain Chase Stock. "It's pretty much everybody."

Games are played in teams of two, with 30 to 40 people on each side. Essentially, the idea is to replicate medieval battles while still being safe, Stock said.

"We make sure that every weapon is safe at first," said Stock, a student at Grove City High School.
Weapons are made from PVC pipe and duct tape, he said. Participants are free to borrow from the assortment of weapons in the trunk of Stock's car, and many also make their own.

The games, which can be compared to tag or Capture the Flag, begin with a stereotypical battle "charge." Since the weapons are padded, Stock said any injuries usually arise from falling. The teams play until a flag is captured, or everyone on one team is "dead." Teams are formed with equal skill in mind.

Players must follow a list of rules, he said: They aren't allowed to hit anyone on the head, although "tapping" an opponent with a weapon is acceptable. If a player is tapped on the arm or leg, that limb becomes "useless." Losing two limbs means "death." A tap on the torso is "instant death."

Depending on the type of game, players might have the chance to be resurrected, he said.

"I think people have the misconception that we take ourselves very seriously," Stock said. "The more ridiculous you are, the funnier it is."

He noted that some players decorate their weapons with neon duct tape. One participant recently showed up with a lime-green trident. Another dresses in costumes modeled after the band ABBA, with weapons named after the group's songs.

Grove City's LAIR group has its own Facebook page and two videos on YouTube. Stock's father, Chris Stock, has followed the group around for recording purposes.

"I think it's nothing but pure fun," he said. "I think that people really get into it."

The Grove City LAIR group was started by two GCHS students. Once they graduated, the game "sort of ended and died out," Chase Stock said.

That was when Stock and his friend, Jack Bailey, asked for permission to take over the LAIR Facebook page.

In October 2011, Bailey and Stock could get only five people to participate in the games. LAIR began to grow slowly by word of mouth. Fifteen people showed, then 30.

"People told their friends and it really spread," Bailey said.

Soon, Central Crossing students began playing; now, about 70 people regularly show up to participate in the games.

One of the original founders of the group, Jake Bova, now 19, started the group when he was a junior at GCHS. About five to six people participated, he said. Now in college, he still tries to attend when he is in town.

"It's a fantastically fun thing to do if you're active," Bova said.