Sunday, September 2, 2007

Thistle and Kilts

I spent the entire day yesterday at this year's Scottish Games at the Altamont Fairgrounds. This was my first time and I am proud to say that I am no longer a Scottish Games virgin. What an amazing time! Sandy had been trying to get me to come with her for years now and I don't know why I never agreed before this year. The festival started at noon with a procession of the Massed Bands. Picture this: 200 drummers and 500 bagpipers all marching across the field, grouping together in neat little lines and playing songs while they marched in unison. I can't even begin to think of a word that might describe what that experience was like.

I've heard people say before that they can't stand the sound of bagpipes. To me, it's one of the most beautiful and mournful sounds I've ever heard. You can hear the pain and struggle of the people in the music and I can feel it when I hear someone playing the bagpipes. It's overwhelming to hear that many pipers all playing at once. Definitely something I won't forget.
After the Massed Bands we grabbed a bite to eat (mmmmm, potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream) and headed over to watch some of the games taking place. My camera officially blows, so I wasn't able to get the greatest pictures ever. But here's one of the Caber Toss. These huge burly men are handed giant tree trunks, too big to be considered a log, really. On average the Cabers are 16-20 feet long and 80-130 pounds each. Each player has a few spotters who balance the Caber upright while the player bends down and picks the Caber up, balances it upright in the palms of his hands, and has to flip it over and make it land in a 12:00 position. If the Caber doesn't flip completely end over end, no point is awarded. It was amazing to watch.

Another interesting game was the Sheaf Toss. A small burlap bag is stuffed with 16 pounds of hay and tied shut. Each player hooks a pitchfork into the bag and has to toss it up over a bar. After each round they raise the bar higher and higher until every player misses the shot. They had a group of younger men playing on one end of the field and a group of older men playing at the other. This picture is of the older gents' game. At one point the younger players were throwing over a 29 foot shot. Pretty amazing.

Anyway, it was a pretty nice day. Lots of vendors selling all sorts of Scottish and Irish wares. Lots of music...Hair of the Dog played for a while. Great food, too! I don't drink, but it looked and smelled like there was a lot of amazing beers to try out.
If I weren't so damn tired I'd consider going back again today!

No comments: