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Don't Miss the Phoenix Scottish Games

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Culture Issue: February 2019
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Turn to Scotland for your dose of hardcore sporting action this weekend.

The Cardinals are on vacation. They seemed like they were on vacation during the season, but now they really are. The Diamondbacks are just getting started. And the Suns are hard to watch at the moment. ASU Men’s Basketball isn’t going too badly, but on the whole, sports are in the doldrums here in the Valley these days.

scottishgames2So maybe it’s just the right time for the Phoenix Scottish Games. Why watch a bunch of pampered professional athletes underperform when you can watch the original extreme sports? The 55th annual games, sponsored by The Caledonian Society of Arizona, is held Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3, at Steele Indian School Park.

On the schedule are such venerable hernia risks as the Caber Toss, that most visually familiar of highland sports—the one where the competitors fling a big freakin’ pole up and off their shoulders, ninety degrees, for accuracy. There’s also the Hammer Throw, which switches the toss from underhand to a twirling overhand.

scottishgamesphoenixOther competitions include the Stone Throw and the Stone Carry, and various other weight throws, as well as the Sheaf Toss, in which a stuffed burlap bag is slung over a high crossbar, much like that used by a pole-vaulter, with a pitchfork. All of these events feel like they might have originated, back in the dim mists of antiquity, as dares, and it seems within the realm of possibility that whisky may have been involved in their invention.

The weekend is not only about athletics, however; there’s also a full schedule of musical entertainment, ranging from pipe-and-drum folk band Wicked Tinkers to Rod Stewart impersonator Jay Gates. Competitive dancing, complete with reels, strathspeys, jigs, hornpipes and sword dances, will be held both days. There will be food vendors, needless to say, and even a “Wee Ones Area” for the young “lads and lassies.”

And, of course, it’s “a rain or shine event.” scottishgames4

Tickets for the Phoenix Scottish Games start at $20 for adults in advance; $22 at the gate; less for seniors, children and military. Go to phoenixscottishgames.com for details.