Originally Published: May 3, 2010 10:35 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The spirit, tartans and brawn echoing the vibrancy of Scotland will gambol across Watson Lake Park when the 2010 Prescott Highland Games pay homage to a rich heritage on Saturday.
The daylong merrymaking begins at 9:40 a.m. when two World War II A-6 Texan aircraft, with Modes Warbirds Adventures at the controls, do three flybys over the park as a prelude to the spectrum of events that open at 10 a.m. Post 1297 Arizona Highlanders of the Scottish American Military Society's Color Guard and bagpipers leading a march of the clans will start a host of activities that promise fun for the entire family.
Centerstage are the games, competitions that are centuries old and now re-enacted in American cities and towns and countries around the world.
Professional athletes who travel from game to game to compete with each other will match up on the main field in "ancient heavy events," most notably the caber toss, said Gary Reed, president of the Prescott Area Celtic Society, sponsor of the Highland Games.
Besides hoisting and tossing heavy 15- to 23-foot long poles, the athletes will vie in the stone put, distance throws and the hammer toss - all demanding physical prowess and muscle.
Bagpipers, too, will have their share of the limelight throughout the festivities. In the park's upper ramada, Prescott bagpiper Denise Robinson has lined up performances by Glendale Police Pipes and Drums, Southwest Skye Pipes and Drums, the Phoenix Pipe Band, the Highland Dancers and the Royal Scottish Country Dancers. The highlight of the pipers will be a staging of massed bands marching down the park's hill in the early afternoon.
A favorite Prescott bagpiper, Jim Burns, will be the official games piper, and fans of the piped music will hear such familiar tunes as "Scotland the Brave," "Amazing Grace," "Mull of Kintyre," "Minstrel Boy" and "Flower of Scotland."
Main stage entertainment offers even more merriment from the day's beginning to end. John Goodman and Billy Parker of the Tramor ensemble will belt Celtic songs, with more of the same by the Knockabouts, interspersed with Tom Thomas's Celtic dancers.
The Highland Games wouldn't be complete without the "huzza" of the Jacobites, who will be on hand to re-enact battles of lore, explain the history and culture of Scotland and show off their swords and muskets.
For those who need to retreat to a quiet place for a bit, the Florence Nightingale and Rosslyn Chapel chapters of the Daughters of the British Empire invite guests to the Tartan Tea Room in the gazebo-shaped lower ramada. Repast includes tea, lemonade and appropriate homemade British confections.
But, that's only part of the food, all typical Scottish and British fare, including fish and chips, corn beef and cabbage, Scottish meat pies, short bread, desserts and, of course, rumbledthumps, a concoction of banger sausage, potatoes, cabbage and carrots.
Plenty for children to enjoy gets top billing, too. They will have their own "children's glen," where they can participate in treasure hunts, a miniature caber toss, create their own art, play games, get their faces painted or watch balloon twisters.
All ages will get a kick out of sheep dog demonstrations where canines will herd sheep and ducks, and then people can visit the clan tents to explore genealogy and find out which tartan is the one for each family.
Closing ceremonies and a "ceilidh" (pronounced "kaylie" and meaning party) will round out the Highland Games' activities, from 4 to 7 p.m., with entertainment, food, drink, singing and bagpipers taking over the main tent.
Admission for the Highland Games is $12 for adults, $10 for students, and free for "wee ones." The ceilidh is $5. T-shirts boasting the Highland Games' new mascot, "Ian MacNessie," created by former Disney cartoonist and Prescott Area Celtic Society vice president Russ Miller, will be on sale for mementos to take home.
Saturday's festivities are "closest to what a traditional Scottish Highland Games would be," Robinson said. "It's like being on a trip to Scotland."
For more information about the Highland Games and the complete schedule, visit prescotthighlandgames.com or prescottareacelticsociety.com.