My husband Alfgeirr and I used to live in Dubuque--we had a contact group (Riverwatch) there several years ago but it didn't work out. The group disbanded in 2005. We moved away last December and now live in the Kansas City area. If you want to play in Calontir, Deodar is the closest shire and they're good people. The Barony of Jararvellir (Madison, WI) is also close if you want to visit/go to events, but as it is Kingdom of Northshield, the culture there is different. We preferred to play in Calontir.
There are still some people from the old Riverwatch group living in Dubuque, but as far as I know, the ones who still participate in SCA play in Northshield and none of them were fighters.
You can play with whatever group you want. It takes some time and practice to learn fighting. You could always practice and then authorize at an event. There are usually out-of-town marshals visiting and they can make a quorum to authorize you.