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Competitors, Clans Settle In For Hectic Highland Games
Mary, Queen of Scots, center, was in residence in Escalon for the weekend, greeting the children for tea and cookies as well as walking the grounds at the Escalon Scottish Cultural Association inaugural Highland Games. Marg Jackson/The Times

Bagpipes, kilts, cabers being tossed, hammers being flung and the Queen sweeping her way across the grounds with her royal entourage … a little bit of Scottish culture and heritage made a stop in Escalon over the weekend.

The setting was the inaugural Scottish (Highland) Games hosted by the Escalon Scottish Cultural Association, ESCA, and competitors, spectators and members of a number of different clans all made their way to the Hogan-Ennis Park complex. The Games were staged on both Saturday and Sunday, with a host of other activities accompanying the competitions.

ESCA President Dave McIntosh said the weather was perfect, the competitors were happy and those that turned out to see what it was all about seemed to enjoy the event. He added that the games are something that “must be experienced” in person as opposed to having someone try to describe them, as it is a unique overall feeling and flavor.

Bethany Owen of San Jose was doing double duty, competing herself while also helping those first-time competitors learn how to go about the events without hurting themselves in the process. When you are trying to heave an 18-pound hammer or a 13-foot caber, it helps to have a little knowledge ahead of time.

“I’ve been throwing for 22 years,” Owen said. “I’ve won a wide variety of titles and was the Pleasanton Games champion three or four years ago.”

Noting that she started out being one of the costumed participants, she was encouraged to try her hand at competition as well and found she loved the games even more.

Laurie McFarland Jackson and husband Ron Jackson gave attendees a tutorial on what the different patterns on kilts mean. The expression ‘the whole nine yards’ also came from kilts, as they were made from nine yards of fabric and could be used as clothing during the day and a sleeping bag at night.

Eric Bejaran of Turlock, who is a track and field team member at Stanislaus State, was busy at the games and said his coach encouraged him to get involved in the sport as a way to cross train. He has been doing Scottish Games competitions for the last three or four years.

“I’m an amateur,” he said, adding that he enjoys the uniqueness of the competitive events.

Jamie and Monica Bielefeldt of Modesto brought daughter Stella, 9, and her friend Kurtis Hoffknecht, 10, to enjoy the day on Saturday.

“My daughter and I like to dress up, we’ve been to the Celtic Festival in Sonora, it’s exciting,” said Monica.

Several of those with booths at the event had information to share, such as Noreen O’More of Salinas, who brought a couple of her Glen of Imaal Terriers with her. Four-year-old Millie was being groomed as passersby admired her and came in to get a closer look. O’More said the breed was known as the ‘Strong Dogs of Ireland” and were a working breed. Now, Millie serves as an educational exhibit.

Elsewhere, music was being performed, vendors were offering up a variety of foods and Mary, Queen of Scots welcomed children in for tea and cookies, providing them with a wealth of Scottish history.

A children’s area was set up with a number of craft activities and there were performances by pipe and drum bands as well. There was the Lions Club beer booth, merchandise vendors, whiskey tastings and more.

“It’s a beautiful day and I think it’s awesome,” Escalon resident Betty Lial said, attending with her granddaughter, six-year-old Madison Lial, also of Escalon.

McIntosh said there was plenty to see and do at the family friendly event and though it was a very busy two days, it was worth the effort to put it together.

“Overall, I’m very happy,” he said. “The clans are energized, the athletes are happy and enjoying taking part, I think it was very positive from the participation side.”

A longtime competitor, Bethany Owen of San Jose was busy both taking part in the various throwing events on Saturday as well as instructing some of the novice competitors in the finer points of the Games. Marg Jackson/The Times
Bagpipe players and drummers from the City of Sacramento band were in attendance at the weekend Highland Games, hosted at the city’s Hogan-Ennis Park complex. Marg Jackson/The Times