Metro Weekly

The Virginia Scottish Games and Festival lets everyone celebrate their inner-Scot

There's everything from Highland dancing to whisky tasting and border collie sheep herding demonstrations to "pipes and drums" and fiddling competitions

Caber toss, Photo: Virginia Scottish Games Association
Caber toss, Photo: Virginia Scottish Games Association

It’s called a caber. It’s a huge log the size of a small telephone pole — for throwing.

“The goal is to completely flip it so that what was at the bottom in your hands is facing away from you at exactly 180 degrees,” says Frank McConnell, president of the Virginia Scottish Games, held this weekend at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. “It’s not easy. Not everybody can flip the thing.”

Cabers are one of many items that will be thrown throughout the festive event, a weekend packed with Scottish activities — everything from Highland dancing to whisky tasting and border collie sheep herding demonstrations to “pipes and drums” and fiddling competitions. The games have been held in Virginia for 43 years, but their roots are moored to Scotland.

“There was a point in Scottish history where England would not allow the Scots to do any military training,” explains McConnell. “So the Scottish elected to develop skills and tasks that they could accomplish that would keep them in shape and not look like they were doing military training. That’s where you get throwing stones, throwing cabers, throwing weights over bars. These type of things kept them in shape in case they had to go to war.”

Shot put, Photo: Virginia Scottish Games Association
Shot put, Photo: Virginia Scottish Games Association

Expect to see lots of kilts. “In Scotland, everything’s done by family — or clan — so your tartan is your family tartan for your kilt,” says McConnell, who estimates over 75 clans will be represented at the games. “They’re all nonprofit organizations that promote their family name and its history. So there will be plenty of interesting artifacts and stories when you go by each one of the clan tents. They’ll be telling all about their surname and why they’re proud of it.”

The Virginia Scottish Games and Festival is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3 and 4 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. Adult tickets are $30 for a two-day pass or $20 for a single day. Children 5 to 12 are $5, children under 5, free. For a full schedule of events and times, visit vascottishgames.org.

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