Highland Games at Dundee Scottish Festival call for strength, style and a kilt

Staff reports
A competitor in the 2010 Highland Games at the Dundee Scottish Festival warms up for competition.

They are big, strong and graceful and they wear skirts.

No, they aren't the East German basketball team, they are the athletes who compete in the Highland Games that are part of the Sept. 10 Scottish Festival in Dundee.


he Dundee Scottish Festival is a unique event for many reasons, and some of the more interesting components of the festival are the Highland Games — ancient tests of strength.

Joshua Kenny, one of the competitors likely to be in Dundee says spectators will be able to watch as men compete in events like throwing the stone and the caber.

The rules of the events are not complicated - find something heavy and throw it as far as you can seems to be the basic principle.

"These games are based mostly on ancient events that were sometimes used to test the ability of villagers to establish armies and soldiers. Some of these events are said to pre-date the Olympics and you will notice some events appear similar to things like the shot put and discus," says Kenny, who has been competing 10 to 15 times per year for the past five years.

Like most other sports, Highland Games can become a driving force in your life. Gabe Fletcher from Vestal says he sleeps with a caber, an indication of total immersion in the sport.

In order to do it well, athletes must develop a style.

"When you get a good throw it should almost look and feel effortless. Some of the first things I found amazing was just that — how people that are a lot of times bigger than average can have quick and precise foot speed," says Kenny.

The marquee event is the caber toss. In this event, a competitor picks up and runs with a 20 to 22 feet-long pole weighing around 130 lbs. He flips the pole so it is propelled end-over-end.

While most of the athletes who participate in Highland Games are men, there are women's divisions as well. Dundee Scottish Festival-goers will have a chance to see Erin Mullally from Springwater, a former college and Olympic athlete, demonstrate her skills.

Other events include the Braemer Stone Toss, Heavy Weight Toss, Light Weight Toss, Sheaf Toss, Weight over Bar and Sword Toss.

The Highland Games at the Dundee Scottish Festival follow the Socttish American Association Game rules, but the event is for public education.

For more information about Highland Games and to see a video of the kind of events that might be held in Dundee, visit www.saaa-net.org.

The Dundee Scottish Festival brings the sights, sounds and flavors of Scotland to Dundee, N.Y. on Saturday, Sept. 10. The fun begins at 7:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast followed by Kirkin' of the Tartans, both at Dundee Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

The festival grounds at Black Rock Speedway open at 10 a.m. to welcome the parade that will step off from Dundee Central School at the same time. The parade will feature clans, local groups at at least seven pipe bands that will stop at Dundee's main four corners to perform.

At the festival grounds, there will be three stages of live entertainment with music, dancing, the Scottish Drill team, vendors offering Scottish foods and heritage items, children's activities and more.

Admission at the gate is $10 for ages 8 to 80. All others are admitted for free.

Dundee is located on State Route 14A between Watkins Glen and Penn Yan, not far from Seneca Lake's west side. For details about the festival, visit www.dundeescottishfestival.com.