One of my family's favorite things to do together is to attend the Highland Games each year out in Eagle River, Alaska.
We all enjoy it because there are things that each of us likes to do. For Morrigan, there are kids activities and games. My husband enjoys watching the games themselves. I love the "Tea Tent," shoppping at the booths and especially the bands they bring up every year.
This year was no exception...the "Tea Tent" was perfectly placed to not only drink pot after pot of "Bewley's Tea," but also to enjoy watching the girl's Highland Dancing.
It was also the perfect spot to listen to the band "Stand Easy" featured John McClean Allan, who has played with an amazing number talented Celtic artists. We listened to their mid-afternoon show and I now believe that the bagpipes can be a true rock instrument!
Of course, what most folks come to watch are the games themselves.
Scottish Games involve "strong man" events--in other words, making heavy things go high or far by either throwing them or carrying them. All weights are traditionally in "stone" (14 US lbs = 1 stone) but in Alaska, they list it in pounds for the newbies.
The events include: the hammer throw, stone put, weight for distance. In my opinion, the most impressive events are the weight for height, the "caber toss" and the "Farmer's Walk." "Weight for height" involves throwing the weight over the head so it also goes over the bar. It can't hit the bar or it doesn't count. The "caber toss" is a little different. It's basically picking up a telephone-pole-sized log and throwing it so it flips end-over-end. The use "clock" references to determine points. The most points are attained by achieving a "twelve o'clock" throw, less points for 11:00, 10:00, etc...
Probably the best "crowd participation" game is called the "Farmer's Walk." It involves carrying a weight in each hand (each weighing 173 lbs) and walking as far as possible. There is a 100 ft measuring tape stretched out on the ground between two stakes. The competitors have to walk around the stake on each end to continue carrying the weights. (I understand that's the hardest part.)
This year, the farthest walk was a record...457 feet.
The "crowd participation" part is when you find yourself screaming for each and every competitor to keep going just a little bit farther...just one foot in front of the other...and then shout encouragement when they finally drop the weights.
I've been a fan and participant in Scottish Highland Games for many years...since I was a teenager in Philadelphia and worked a booth. However, our Games up here have a uniquely Alaskan feel whether it's the booths of Alaskan seafood, the beautiful mountains of Eagle River surrounding the event or the energy of the close-knit Celtic Community.
I'm already looking forward to next year!