Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wild Card Weekend - The Highland Games!

What do you do when a friend calls and offers to share her VIP ticket to The Highland Games? If you're having a year of adventure like Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke, you say yes and thank you.

Hmm, maybe I should have reversed the order? Ah, well.

Lucy Monroe and I giggled like schoolgirls about how amazing it is that as a writer, having fun is part of your job responsibilities! She's working on a Scottish midieval right now, so she was giddy for the history of everything. I'm a contemporary girl, so dreamed up a couple different scenarios (including a stunning YA idea for anyone who wants it), and voila - another day at the office.

Lucy's husband joined in on the fun, when he wasn't chaffering us to and from and lugging bags and coats to the car. Such a good sport. And it got even better when he got caught up in the festivities and bought a kilt. (Read about that here.)

The festivities stretched over the Mt Hood Community College campus. We explored the clan tents first, mesmerized by how many people wore kilts or their clan tartan in some other way (ties, scarves, baby wraps). Close to two dozen clans brought displays to share their history and heritage. The maps were fascinating, as were the knives everyone seemed to have tucked into their long wool socks!

One field showcased the athletic competitions, from shinty (kind of like polo without the horse) to strong man competitions (for men, women & children). I've seen the strongman competitions on ESPN, but live is so much better. When you're standing there, you realize how dangerous these feats are and it ratchets the excitement up.

In weight for height the competitor tosses a 50+ pound bucket-looking thing over their head where a limbo-type bar is perched. Clearing the bar means they can try it even higher. I still am not sure how they manage to toss it without it coming down on their head!

I couldn't get any good pictures of them throwing the Scottish was just too dangerous to have a good angle! The Scottish Hammer is a 20 pound ball on the end of a stick! The whirl around and when they have enough momentum they release it. See what I mean about dangerous?

Portland even has it's own signature event...The Portland Stone. Stone is really a misnomer...this is a 100 pound boulder! With a clean-and-jerk motion, the athletes get the boulder over their head, run, and with a might bellow toss it as far as they can. I really started to feel bad for the ground, which was left with quite the dent from every toss.

Weight for Distance is a bit like the Olympic discus...except they throw a ball and chain! Again, not something you want to get in the way of. Open Stone resembles shot-put...but with a rock.

The Kilted Mile attracted men and women of all ages. Everyone cheers, especially for those in their clan. At the end I missed the highlight of the whole miler flipped up his kilt to show what was underneath (joke boxers, but still). And I missed it. Totally. I think me missing it (of all people) made Lucy laugh harder than the actual flashing!

The final sporting event was the Caber Toss. The throw a telephone pole into the air, trying to get it to cartwheel. The world champion was one of the competitors, so we got to see this quite a bit. We also got to see what happens when they lose their grip or can't balance the 19-foot log correctly. Talk about scary! I was so chicken, I stood on the stage to take pictures.

In addition to the athletics were bands and dancing. I loved watching the Scottish dancers of all ages. The smaller kids were adorable, and the older performers so precise. In her research, Lucy learned the dances began as ways to train boys for battle, kind of like martial arts. Now they're artisic and fun, but I can imagine they once were quite serious.

The pipe bands were amazing. I'm not sure my ear is tuned enough to be able to tell one song from another, but I loved watching them. I enjoyed the band competitions as well, fascinated by the different formations they would take to perform. The drummers had quite a bit of flair.

The food was perfectly Scottish. The VIP tent had a spread of bangers, mashed potatoes, bangers and mash, grain mustard, crudite and fresh fruit - with MacTarnahan's Ale flowing as well. We had afternoon tea in the Brittish tea tent. You could smell the butter in their home-baked goodies.

And the shopping...phenomenal. I had no idea there would be so many amazing things! Of course there were kilt sellers and kilt makers (both tradition and modern), but there were capes (I got Babygirl a red one so she can be little red riding hood), books, jewelry (I found amazing lapis earrings), hair accessories (leather hair ties and metal twists), and weaponry.

Oh, the weapons. There were ornate knives, perfect for tucking in one's sock as the Scotts are wont to do. But there were serious broadswords as well. Chain metal and shields. Axes and whips. Mace and spears. It was equal parts scary and fascinating to have them there to handle. Those things were heavy, and if the ax blade touches anything the vibration moves down your arms like a tuning fork. Talk about hands on research!

I think I'll go again. It really got my creative side running. With as popular as Scottish historicals have become, maybe I can figure out a way to blend that into contemporary. Who knows...I won't have time to find out until I finish the next three stories!

Jenna's dealing with line edits, waiting to hear back on a new story, and finishing the road trip book right now. Until it's ready, be sure to check out her latest. Private Scandal is ripe with secrets, sass, and sensational sex. Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog

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