Tartans of red, blue, aqua and green fluttered in the breeze Saturday as the 14th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games officially opened with a march of the clans.
Over 3,000 spectators watched as burly Scots threw sheaves of hay over a football goal post, heaved weights, stones and hammers for distance, and - most unusual of all - flipped the 100-pound, 15-foot caber log.The games are thought to have originated in northern Scotland, where ancient clansmen sent their strongest and most agile to compete for leadership and positions on the battlefield.
Although the Utah Highland games include dancing and band competitions, the emphasis is on athletics. For instance, to win the caber toss, men must set the pole in its upright position and hoist it from the base. Then, while judges tag along behind, the contestant trots forward to gather momentum and speed and heaves the pole at the last minute. To win, the contestant's pole must flip and land pointed as near directly away from him as possible.
Although several rookies in the hammer throw and stone put fared well in Saturday's games, the caber toss separated the pros from the amateurs. Only those who had clearly practiced it many times before were able to make the grade.
Lest you think the Scots value strength only in their men, the women have their own stone put, a lighter caber toss and a contest where they throw a 28-pound weight backward over a bar for height. Perhaps the favorite women's athletic event is the rolling pin toss.
This year's winner, known only as Debbie, threw the pin for over 70 feet, prompting the announcer to warn men in the crowd to stay out of her way.
Besides the athletics, there are the Highland dance contests for both boys and girls of all ages. Three different dances are performed. The Highland fling is performed on one spot to music which never changes tempo. The second dance, known as the "sean triubhas," was originally written to show the Scot's disdain for trousers. The traditional sword dance requires steps to be performed in all four corners of a pair of crossed swords.
Five pipe bands provided the music of the day, including the Utah Pipe Band and the Payson High School Band.
The games ran for one day.