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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Four-year-old Celtin Hawkins swelters in the heat during the mass bands performance at the Payson Scottish Festival on Saturday.

Jon Tomkinson may only be 1/32 Scottish, but that's all the burly 21-year-old needed to win the caber toss Saturday at the Payson Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

The Scottish Festival and Highland Games, hosted Thursday to Saturday at Memorial Park at 250 S. Main, offered dozens of competitors and hundreds of spectators a chance to immerse in the Scottish culture and find out if perhaps their own ancestry traces back to the misty Highlands.

West Jordan resident Tomkinson said he learned about his Gaelic ties while doing an ancestry assignment when he was younger. He discovered he had "some Scottish" in him — as did several of his friends — and the youngsters immediately embraced their heritage by practicing the caber toss.

"That's when we all started throwing fence rails," Tomkinson laughed.

And that was also before Tomkinson figured out the true objective of caber tossing is precision — not distance. Competitors pick up a long log — the caber — run with it and toss it end over end. A perfect throw lands as though the caber were an hour hand on a clock that's just struck noon. A less than perfect throw lands at an angle pointing to 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.

This is the first Highland Games Tomkinson has competed in, and he won the Class C division by tossing a 15-foot 6-inch caber, weighing 85 pounds.

"The hardest part is balancing (the caber)," Tomkinson said.

Aside from the fan-favorite caber toss, the Highland Games included stone puts, hammer and sheaf toss. Numerous Scottish clans set up tents in the park and eagerly shared the story of their lineage with any one who would listen.

Kearns resident Bruce Morgan, 59, of the Mackay Clan — properly pronounced "Mac-EYE" — eagerly helped event-goers discover their Highland ties. After one particularly extensive name search, including multiple surnames, he regretfully concluded one Deseret News reporter apparently has no Scottish in him.

"Sorry," he said, patting the disappointed reporter on the shoulder.

But not to despair, Morgan said, there are several ways to become Scottish: one, be born a Scot; two, marry a Scot; three, break away from the past and join a clan — for a small yearly fee. Morgan said Scots are a good crowd to affiliate with.

"They were warriors," he said. "They were people who were fiercely independent."

Robert Matheson, 63, of the Matheson clan, said he traveled all the way to Payson from Los Angeles to extend an invitation to all Mathesons to reconnect with their Highland roots and to help people understand the influence Scots have had on the United States.

"Scots are known as survivors," he said.

Tomkinson readily admits he doesn't know much about the Scottish side of his family tree, but he's glad he's found a sport that helps him connect with the past.


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com