Celebrate Scottish Heritage in West Virginia
by Ben Crookshanks
Many people in West Virginia are of Scottish descent. So it naturally follows that we would want to celebrate our heritage. The West Virginia Highland Games and Celtic Festival does just that every August at the YMCA Sports Complex in Beckley. The date this year will be the weekend of August 20-22.
On Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, there will be Scottish Amateur Athletic Competition. Scottish athletic events largely consist of throwing things - heavy things. Probably the best known is tossing the caber. The origin of this event is obscure, but the earliest known reference is as far back as the 16th century. A caber looks like a utility pole and weighs in the neighborhood of 180 pounds. You stand it up straight, reach down, get hold of the bottom and lift it, being ever so careful to keep it vertical. Now, you take a little run and flip the caber end over end. With a fair amount of skill and strength, plus a lot of luck, the pole will land pointed straight away from you. The straightest toss, not the longest, wins. Still, the record is about 40 feet.
Putting the stone or clachneart is similar to modern day shot put. A stone weighing 28 pounds is used and the best of three attempts is judged.
In the weight throw, both 28 and 56 pound weights are thrown horizontally for distance. Again, it is the best of three that wins.
The weight toss is a little different. It is an elimination event. A 56 pound weight is tossed backwards vertically over a bar. Each participant is allowed three attempts. Anyone not making the toss or knocking the bar down is eliminated. Each round the bar is raised. The highest final toss wins.
The Scottish hammer used in the hammer throw has a handle 4 2 long with either a 16 or 22 pound lead ball on the end. WVHG uses a 22 pound hammer. The hammer is swung around to gain momentum and then released. Once again you get three tries. The longest wins.
You couldnt have Scottish Gathering without music and dancing. There will be non-competitive Scottish and Irish dancing all day at the dancing tent. These include, among others The Highland Fling and The Sword Dance. Of course there will be bagpipes, the one instrument that does not need to be amplified. It was used by armies to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy.
Vendors will be set up selling a wide variety of Scottish and Celtic merchandise and food. All events will be held rain or shine. It rains a lot in Scotland, so no stout hearted Scot would ever be bothered by a little rain.
For more information call the West Virginia Highland Games, LTD at (304) 727-9513. Web site: www.wvhighlandgames.org. Or call the Southern West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-847-4898.