PLEASANTON (KPIX 5) — The annual Scottish Highland Games, a celebration of a proud people with the strength to endure, wrapped up Sunday at the Pleasanton fairgrounds.
Scotland has had to fight off one invader after another through most of its history, and so it’s not surprising that much of its culture centers on the art of war. There were lessons on archery and swordplay and demonstrations of what’s known simply as a “brawl,” where heavily armored combatants hack at each other with swords for about 30 seconds until exhausted.
“Enemies would come together, they’d clash and then they’d seem to withdraw and then come back together,” said Kyle Harris, a Scottish knight re-enactor dressed in a 70-pound suit of armor.
Even the games themselves are strength competitions using ancient weapons, such as hurling the 22-pound heavy hammer. But for professional competitor Spencer Tyler, who hails from Texas, it’s all in good fun.
“I’ve always been competing of some sort as long as I can remember,” he said. “And this is a way for me not to weigh 900 pounds and sit on the couch all day.”
Women also compete at the Pleasanton games, throwing the heavy stones that inspired the modern shot put. And even though he carries a traditional dagger in his stocking, event organizer Floyd Busby says it’s not all about warfare.
“Well, yes, we certainly depict that, but that doesn’t mean we’re a war-like people,” he said. “We’re very soft at heart, also.”
That’s true, it wasn’t all about fighting. There were traditional foods like meat pies and what’s called a “Scotch Egg,” a hard-boiled egg, covered in sausage and deep fried.
There was music from 28 different drum and bagpipe groups and a folk-dance competition where young women danced around swords again.
But in the living history area, there was also a chance for young commoners to have a private audience with Mary, Queen of Scots. And when the drums of Scottish tribal music began pounding, Christine Hearn found it almost impossible to sit still.
“The heartbeat that goes from the drums and all the other instruments…we come alive one weekend a year for this!” she exclaimed. “It’s wonderful! Thank you!”
About 25,000 people attended this year’s Highland Games. The gathering of the Clans is one the oldest events in the Bay Area, celebrating its 154th year. And it is said to be the largest of its kind in the world.