Stone Mountain Highland Games

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My wife and I decided to go explore the 44th Annual Stone Mountain Highland Games and Festival.  These events are apparently held all over the nation now, but Stone Mountain’s has proven some endurance.  There was much that we didn’t see, for example competitions for Highland dance, harp, fiddling, piping and drumming, as well as various musical performances and sheep herding (done the next day).  But here’s the summary.

First, there’s the story teller, looking and dressed for the role.  He’s  reviewing breakfast foods and whatever else that might either interest people or, better, persuade them to visit Scotland.  With a face like that, there’s dozens of movies he should have been in.

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The opening ceremonies had various people who are the head of clans or otherwise hold some sort of official status in Scotland or here.  Aside from the kilt and requisite wardrobe, it seems a walking stick is a requirement.  Clan shepherds, I suppose.

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Once ensconced in their Officials booth, the music was queued with drums, fifes and, of course, bagpipes.  How do you tell one bagpipe tune from another?  By the titles.

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The drummers use tenor drum sticks, essentially small balls at the tips, but with a handle wrapped so that they can spin them in the air when they raise their arm.  It’s not done in unison, but, hey, it was something to watch.

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After they had marched in, there was speaking and… Hey, with everyone watching, it’s a good time to grab a bite to eat!

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We didn’t get our food from this vendor, but let it be known that I could have had haggis and was not man enough for it.  Instead, we went to a vendor who had this:  Fish and Chips, Meat Pie, and a Scottish Egg (located in the back of the photo).  The egg is boiled, somehow wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried.  Eh, when in (almost) Scotland… why not?  I had the Scottish Egg.

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Not bad, but next time, it’ll be the fish and chips.

The main program interest for us was the athletic events.  Participants are divided into men and women, and on the men’s side, at least, further divided into Professional Masters, Professional, and Amateurs A and B.  Sunday would host the women’s division and a competition between clans.  But first, it wouldn’t be a legitimate event without Renaissance Fair-looking flags:

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Ok, must be legit.  First observations were some amateurs taking some reps with the Stone of Strength.  It’s 28 lbs. and made of granite.  I have no idea how far they threw it, but it wasn’t far.  The record is almost 40’ for the Stone Mountain competition.  Each competitor gets three turns, with the farthest toss counting for their score.

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Next up was The Weight – divided into two competitions using 56 and 28 lb. weights, attached to  a short chain.  There is a stick on the ground which is not a foot fault limitation but rather a hand fault – which should not pass the line before releasing the weight.  Professionals seemed to take full two revolutions as they approached it for release.

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The 56 lb. weight is also tossed for height in a separate competition.  The records for distance are 48’ 10” and 95’ 5” respectively.  Next up is the Sheaf Toss, where a 20 lb. sheaf of hay in a burlap bag is thrown using a pitchfork over a bar.  The competitor fits the fork, and most took a couple of back and forth swinging motions before releasing it over their shoulders and hoping for the best.  We saw a few clear the bar.

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I don’t think that particular toss made it.  And, lastly, there was the Caber Toss.  The goal is to toss it end over end with the small end falling directly away from the competitor’s feet as it is released.  A judge follows the competitor to essentially judge the fall somewhere between 10:00 and 2:00 on a watch face, with 12:00 being perfect.  Most observed “tosses” failed to make it past the vertical, and a side judge would at least judge the angle that it reached.  Helpers would place and hold the caber vertically while the contestant fitted it against his shoulder.  He then has to measure the balance and get his hands under it unassisted.  The judge can call for the contestant to drop it if it appears he’s losing control – as the referees, other contestants, and observers could be hurt.  Several tended to waver around a little after the initial lift.  How long they held it or with what speed they were walking when they made the toss didn’t seem to matter.  The timing of the toss appeared to be the critical element, with the heavy end of the Caber already in motion as gravity does it work.  Here’s a series of an almost perfect toss.  The Caber was over 19’ and weighed about 150 lbs.

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And, then there was people watching.  Here, a gentleman wears his Scottish baseball cap and some standard American apparel.

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I have no idea what authentic Scottish headwear is, but maybe this guy has it.  It also begs the question of shoes – laced dress shoes or hiking sneakers… Hmm.  I’d guess the latter when carrying the walking stick.

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Wearing a kilt doesn’t mean that you have to go full-Scot, though.

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This was the only sword I saw, but, hey, it’s a nice one, and otherwise it just sits on the den wall, right?

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And, some people just wear whatever.  But that’s okay.

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Clan reunions are like family reunions, so many wore their respective Clan shirts.

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My wife noted that there was no small number of red-headed children, so it seems as if some belong.  Otherwise, there was a sense that the various clans, staked out in tents, are happy to have anyone join who has a name reasonably similar to the Clan name, if willing to join their club for a fee.

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And, once you’re part of the family, you should go buy the clan plaid, right?   It was definitely for sale (and, I believe, anyone can officially apply for a registered pattern for their family name for a fee as well).

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There were other things for sale.  Gargoyles and other creepy things:

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T-shirts:

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Kilts. Here, a Georgia fan is probably looking to switch his allegiance to something more enduring.

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As we were leaving, we watched a few more Caber tosses.  The “pitch” had a slope to it that we hadn’t noticed earlier.

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Cool stuff, but at $20 per person admission plus a $15 park admission, this was a “one and done” event for us.  Still, it was a beautiful fall Saturday and a good outdoor experience.

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