Friday, August 20, 2010

The Portland Highland Games

I have a serious backlog of summer doings to tell you about. For one, Shaun's Aunt Nancy came to Portland and stayed with us for two nights. Nancy arranged her visit to coincide with the Portland Highland Games, and she treated our family to our first outing there. Hopefully it won't be our last.

We had no idea what to expect. I imagined there'd be a lot of this sort of thing:

I pictured a Scottish-themed Ren Faire, a celebration populated with stout, jolly folks who like to dress up, but for whom cultural/historical accuracy is not a primary concern. (I have never actually been to a Renaissance Fair. That's just the unfair stereotype I carry about in my head.) There was a bit of that, in a happy, democratic, "everyone is welcome here" sort of way, but there was so much more.

In the photo above, did you happen to notice the older gentleman in the knee-socks and beautiful kilt? Every competitor for the day, be he or she competing in pipe and drum, or Highland dance, or pipe band, or heavy athletics, wore exquisite clothing. The tartans were lovely in their variety, the wools were fine, the pleats crisp, the socks surprisingly appealing. And if a man looks good in a uniform (and he does), he looks twice as good if the uniform involves a kilt.

New for this year's games was the regimental drum major competition. Here is one of the five contestants being judged on the authenticity of his dress:

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the judges' outfits were amazing too. I passed by a judge in the exhibition hall and was struck by the exceptional quality of his clothing. It's something I don't see these days apart from vintage. They don't make things that nice for ordinary ("not rich") people anymore.

Here is the Superstar Multiple World Championship Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.

They are a Huge Big Deal if you are into pipe bands. They were great. And don't you love their uniforms?

A Parade of the Clans is part of the festivities. It is a little disconcerting for the uninitiated to hear the word "clan" bandied about so freely, but one quickly gets used to it. Here's Nancy marching with the Clan Ross bunch. She writes their newsletter. Everyone we met was very nice, and I can see why she enjoys being so involved in the community.

One of the day's big crowd-pleasers is The Kilted Mile. Here's a bit of historical background from the program: "According to tradition, young MacGregor was late starting the race, but sped like a deer... As he overtook the leaders, his elder brother tried to hold him back by grabbing his kilt. Knowing his brother's strength, and being himself uninhibited, he slipped off his kilt, and so gained the victory."

As you can see, the outfits in this event are totally DIY.

This guy blew everybody away. It's not every day you see all that swooshing in a footrace.

Alas for this poor little fellow, the rules these days require everyone to keep their kilts on. His kilt started falling down as soon as he took his first step. He managed to finish near the front of the pack despite the fact that he had to hold his kilt up with one hand the entire way. Scrappy.

At some point we fell behind in keeping Willem fed, and it took us most of the day to get him back to happy equilibrium. Once his blood sugar drops he does a really scary Mr. Hyde thing.

Our own little Clan Ross members got to handle weapons at the Clan Ross booth. They loved it. Of course.

You can't go to the Highland Games without seeing any of the games. They are truly impressive. Big men throw big rocks. And logs. Yep, they throw logs. The event is called the caber toss, and it's pretty crazy.

The goal is to flip the caber so it lands in a straight line away from the tosser. It's hard just to pick it up.

Then you run.

Then you toss. Which sounds a lot more casual than it actually is.

It's pretty thrilling to watch. All of the events were fun; people had obviously practiced really hard to get good at these things they were passionate about. Yes, it gave me a little warm spot in my heart.

And any event with a Tea Tent stocked with a vast assortment of unfamiliar (to me) homemade biscuits is all right by me. Even if the tea is just Lipton.


Annie Nannie said...

Grrrrrreat rrrreading your comments and reliving the Games through your eyes, Gypsy.

Glad you enjoyed the day. I had so much fun sharing it with you and the boys.

Andrew said...

Dude. That was amazing. I must go next year.

Did you sample any sausage-like delicacies?

Gypmar said...

Andrew, we ended up eating at a secondary food court area where we had a banger on a bun, but it was mediocre.

We also had a custard dessert called tipsy laird, which I wanted to try despite the fact that it looked like cat vomit because it came with a warning sign that it contained whiskey. That wasn't great either.

However, everything that came from the main food area looked delicious...meat pies, fish and chips, and stovies. And booze. Next year :)