Saturday, February 12, 2011

Highland Games

The Scottish Highland Games are always held the third weekend in January at Winter Springs. When I arrived, the parking both were packed. I pulled my SUV up over a curb and parked next to some woods. When I went to the press tent and asked for my pass, the man asked, "Are you that artist that sketches?" I thought to myself, don't most artists sketch? But I said, "Yes?" He related that he follows the blog and he always wanted to meet me. We chatted for a while. I entered the event site feeling golden. Of course the first thing you hear upon entering the Highland Games is bagpipes. Bagpipers perform and compete for coveted prizes. I followed my ears and found a group of bagpipers standing in a circle rehearsing.

I wandered over to the playing fields which were surrounded by construction site orange mesh fencing. Women were throwing heavy metal weights. There really wasn't much competition for Kate Burton, who threw that thing twice as far as any other woman on the field. Later at the caber toss it was the same story. A caber is a telephone pole sized log which is supposed to be tossed end over end. The competitor that tosses the caber closest to 12 o'clock wins. When it was Kate's turns the announcer said, "Kate Burton is on the caber!" There was laughter from the crowd. I didn't understand why at first. A man helped her get the caber up into position, though I think she could have done it herself. She stood up and took a step back to catch her balance. She ran forward and thrust her arms in the air achieving an 11 o'clock toss on her first try. The crowd went wild. No other woman was able to up end the caber that day.

The men's caber toss competition was surprising in that the larger men were not the best caber tossers. Having a thick chest, legs as thick as barrels and thick beefy arms didn't matter. It must all be about technique because the smallest man on the field, perhaps 5 foot tall and of medium build, was the clear champion.I sipped a delicious apricot ale as I sketched.

On another field, Scottish Sheep Dogs were demonstrating how to herd sheep. Four sheep were on the field and the dogs would circle around them to bring them back to the herder. Using just a series of whistle commands the dog could even get the sheep to follow an intricate course maze. It was an impressive sight. I ended the day listening to a Scottish Band called Albannach. Their high energy music had a large crowd of people dancing in front of the stage as the sun set and golden orange light filtered up to the treetops.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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