Barrel-chested men don kilts every week in an open field behind a metro YMCA. Joggers gawk as the men toss logs into the air, heave stones and fling bundles of straw over a baseball backstop in preparation for the second annual Iron Thistle Scottish Heritage Festival and Highland Games, set to command the Kirkpatrick Park in Yukon Friday and Saturday.
"It's like a Strongman competition: just a bunch of guys throwing heavy stuff around for points and distance," said second-year competitor Clint French.
Jonathan Irvin, a longtime veteran of Highland festivals, helped organize the Iron Thistle. According to him, the games originated in the 15th century when King Malcolm III of Scotland summoned the finest athletes in the land to participate in a footrace to decide who would be the royal messenger.
Specific games vary from festival to festival, but common events include:
" the sheaf toss, where bundles of straw are tossed vertically with a pitchfork,
" the weight over the bar, where a 56-pound weight attached to a handle is thrown up and over a bar set at increasing heights, and
" the caber toss, in which logs are held vertically and thrown for distance, and the weight for distance.
"The first time I tried the caber toss, I bruised my collarbone and it was tender for a while," rookie Kyle Erwin said. "I'm trying to add some meat in there so it won't weigh on my bone."
For more information, visit their site. "Charles Martin