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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Round Hill Highland Games

Today, Kimberly and I went to the 87th Annual Round Hill Highland Games at Cranbury Park in Norwalk. Last year, the games took place on the Saturday after July 4, so we were away in the Adirondacks. This year, we weren't about to miss it, especially since my mother-in-law recently put in so much hard work altering a kilt that I had somehow mis-ordered. (Thanks, Chris!!!)

So, this morning, after a leisurely breakfast of fresh-baked blueberry muffins and coffee (Thanks, Kimberly!!!), I suited up: Kilt, kilt belt, sporran, hose, garter flashes and sgian dubh, with a clergy shirt and a Tilley hat. I was stylin'.

We arrived at Cranbury Park about 11:00, in plenty of time to get parked and onto the property before the opening ceremony, with a parade of pipe bands and procession of the clans. Norwalk's Mayor Richard Moccia, who was a member of last year's Saints and Sinners Barbecue Team, issued a proclamation and the Rev. David Van Dyke, of the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford offered a first-rate invocation. Each of the clans represented was invited to offer a "battle cry" (which seemed to be each clan's Latin motto) and to come forward and receive a ribbon for their clan flag. Then the festivities really began.

Kimberly and I wandered through Clan Row, where representatives of all of the clans had booths with genealogical information, tartans, and miscellaneous other things of interest. Then, we turned the corner to the vendors' section, where kilt-sellers, bagpipe-purveyers, tartan-traders and plaid-pushers plied their trade. I scoped out all sorts of stuff that I really don't need and managed to withstand temptation -- at least until later.

We made our way to the food vendors, where Kimberly and I bought some pretty good fish and chips, complete with a liberal dosing of malt vinegar, of course. I also got some rather dubious deep-fried haggis balls. ("Gee," you say, "I didn't know that haggises even had balls..." That's very clever of you. Can we please move on, now?) The haggis itself was fairly good, but the deep-frying left the whole thing unpleasantly greasy. In the future, I'll continue to eat my haggis in the traditional way.

After lunch, it was time for us to head back to the games area, where the hammer throw and weight-for-height competions were taking place. The hammer throw makes my shoulders hurt, just watching it, as the competitors stand with their feet firmly planted and whirl the hammer around several times before releasing it, unlike the Olympic hammer throw, where the competitors spin their bodies and use the centrifugal force to propel the hammer. The weight for height just makes me afraid that one of the atheletes is going to misjudge and have the weight come down on their heads. They're both impressive games, but they also both leave me thinking that I've got no business signing up to compete.

When we had had enough of the heavy athletics, Kimberly and I sauntered over to the lemonade stand and then over to the pavilion, where the highland dance competition was going on. We sat and enjoyed the shade as we watched young teenage girls performing the highland fling and the sword dance, then it was back tot he main field to watch several of the pipe bands compete.

After a while, one of my church members, Nancy, showed up and we retraced our steps, while she took in the sights. As the day was drawing to a close, a couple more church members wandered by, including an expatriate Scot who was there with her husband. Helen seemed pleased (amused?) to see me in a kilt, though she opined that a real Scot would never wear a kilt on a day like today because it would be too hot. Of course, they don't even have Summer in Scotland, so the point is moot. Personally, though, I thought the kilt was rather comfortable. The clergy shirt, on the other hand, was awfully warm in thRe afternoon sun, so I guess it is just a matter of relative discomfort.

We stood around, marvelling, as we watched the caber toss, and then the day concluded with the a mass performance by all seventeen pipe bands that had been part of the day's competition. They marched onto the field in two large units, playing "The Minstrel Boy," and concluded with a earth-shaking performance of "Amazing Grace." Kimberly and I are already looking forward to next year and I expect that Ian is, too.
Seventeen pipe bands playing Amazing Grace
(Taken with a really crummy cell-phone camera. Sorry.)
((Did I mention that I hate my cell phone?))

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