In a tight labor market, Medieval Times is hiring for the knight shift

By Matthew Casey
Published: Monday, March 14, 2022 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, March 14, 2022 - 12:55pm

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Medieval Times Scottsdale joust
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Knights joust on horseback at Medieval Times in Scottsdale.

Small-business owners said one of their toughest problems in February was finding good help.

So what about a company needing to hire athletic performers, able to battle on horseback while working weekends and holidays?

This is the challenge facing one local business, which is home to a unique dinner-theater tournament named Medieval Times.

But before new hires can compete for the title — Defender of the Realm — they have to start as a squire.

Joseph Toma
Matthew Casey/KJZZ
Joseph Toma

Joseph Toma felt drawn to the recent casting call for aspiring performers by a chance to take part in faux battles on the sand floor of a colorful oval-shaped arena surrounded by people at banquet tables.

“Play out every little boy’s childhood dream, which is Medieval fighting. Who doesn’t want to fight with swords, to be honest. No matter what age you are,” he said. 

Toma is 26-years-old and looks the part. He’s built like a superhero and not afraid to ride horses.

“I grew up going to horse camp in the summers. Worked with horses all throughout high school,” said the fitness and health coach who likes to sky-dive.

Experience with high-intensity situations means Toma is unfazed by the thought of performing stunts in costume in front of 1,000 feasting people. He came to the casting call interested in joining a nearly 50-year-old company that started in Spain.

But it would have to be the right fit.

“[I’m] not actually currently looking for work. I currently do a lot of online training. Perfectly happy with what I’m doing there,” he said.

Knights at Medieval times Scottsdale
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Knights clash swords at Medieval Times.

Last month, nearly 180,000 leisure and hospitality workers were hired across the country, driving a strong jobs report for February.

But the National Federation of Independent Business still found that nearly half of owners surveyed had openings they could not fill.

One place looking for help features feasts and swordfights. Medieval Times has 10 locations in the United States and Canada. The castle on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian reservation had unlucky timing and opened months before the pandemic.

In 2022, businesses struggle to pay their workers enough to keep them. 

Horse with trainer
Matthew Casey/KJZZ
A trainer leads a horse into the stable facility attached to Medieval Times

Up a large ramp from the Medieval Times arena are stables for horses that perform in the show.

Most are Andalusian, a rare stock in the U.S. which was bred in the Middle Ages.

As head knight, it’s Edward Maciejczyk’s job to train animals and squires to safely perform in the show. Orientation was different when he first wore armor.

“Back when I started you just got thrown right into it. So your first day, you were already dressed up. You went out there and you got killed,” he said.

Now new hires have to do thorough training for a job with tuition and gym membership reimbursement.

Maciejczyk likens some of the stunts to skateboard tricks he used to do.

“You have to learn how to do shoulder rolls, flips. You have to learn how to do the stunt falls off of our horses,” he said.

Medieval Times Scottsdale horseback fight
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Knights battle on horseback at Medieval Times in Scottsdale.

Key to walking away safely is knowing how to stay calm when the crowd roars, your heart races and the horse watches your body language for cues on how to react.

“We teach you to get psyched up, not psyched out with it,” said Maciejczyk.

From its casting call, Medieval Times hoped to hire 8 to 10 performers.

About 20 people showed up to interview.

Among them was Toma, the fitness coach and skydiver with a passion for horses.

“I think the jousting looks really fun to be entirely honest. The most out of anything.” he said.

Medieval Times Scottsdale castle
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Exterior of the Medieval Times Scottsdale castle.

Toma said shortly after the casting call, Medieval Times offered him a job.

But as fun as he thinks sword fighting would be, he turned it down. The salary offer was around $30,000 — a figure a Medieval Times spokesperson could not confirm.

Toma said he wouldn’t do it for less than he made as a bouncer. A job he recently quit — leaving yet another position to be filled in the service industry.

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