Highland Games open Friday at Expo Center

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Competitive Highland dancing, individual piping and drumming, the big sound of pipe bands, Scottish athletic events and traditional Scottish foods - visitors will experience all that and more, as Enumclaw again welcomes the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering.

Things get rolling Friday evening, then continues in earnest Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of the Enumclaw Expo Center.

A traditional highlight comes at 12:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, when all the pipe and drum corps come together and attendees split up by family name for the “parade of the clans.”

The gates open at 8 a.m. both days.

Friday night's activities get under way at 7 with music and other fun, followed at 9 by the traditional Ceilidh - a social gathering featuring Scottish song and dance.


This year's featured performers include Scottish balladeer Colin Grant-Adams; the loud and boisterous Wicked Tinkers; the folk music duo Men of Worth; the traditional Irish bard Ken O'Malley; pan-Celtic ensemble Iona; and the Celtic rock sound of Tempest.

Visitors can also check out the encampment of the Northwest's premier steel combat troupe, the Seattle Knights. Their performances include high-energy acting and choreographed stage combat using real steel weapons including broadswords, axes, and staves.

Also on the grounds, guests can take a stroll through the Avenue of the Clans and the Glen of the Clans and delve into Scottish ancestry and heritage. Inside the Hall of the Vendors is the workmanship of Scottish artisans.

The Scottish Farm features shaggy Scotch Highland, Ayrshire and Galloway cattle, Clydesdale horses and black faced sheep. Featured in the kennel will be Celtic dog breeds at work and at play.

All are welcome to attend Saturday evening's Ceilidh - a traditional Scottish party with music, a sing-along, stories and Scottish country dancing.

The athletic competition is unlike anything the average American sports fan has seen. For example, there's the caber toss, a test of strength and balance, which involves the underhanded toss of a pole that checks in at almost 20 feet and weighs more than 100 pounds. In the sheaf toss, contestants use a pitchfork to loft a heavy sack over a pole. Other events include tossing a stone and the hammer throw.

For nearly 1,000 years, clansmen, chiefs and competitors from all over Scotland banded together to compete against one another in what is often defined as one of the most rigorous forms of competitions in the world, the Scottish Highland Games.

In the beginning stages of these gatherings, the arts of sport and battle practice were displayed. One of the first Highland Games was held toward the end of the 11th century, when King Malcolm Canmore became concerned about the way in which important news and documents were delivered to his highland retreat.

He needed strong, healthy runners to race against one another over rocky terrain. The winner received a beautiful baldric sword, a purse of gold and the title of the “king's messenger.” That evolved into what is now known as the Scottish Highland Games.

As the Scots emigrated throughout the world, they took their love of the traditional games.

The Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering runs from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Friday events are free. For Saturday and Sunday, adult admission is $12 for one day or $18 for a two-day pass; prices for senior citizens (60 years and older) and children (5 to 17 years) are $9 and $13. Kids younger than 5 are admitted free. Parking is $4 per day.

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