Sunday’s opaque sky parted in the afternoon as dancers, athletes and onlookers celebrated Scottish heritages in Riverside, whether they had them or not.
A whim led Jason Ellis and Rebecca Power to drive in from Baldwin City, Kan., with 3-year-old Isla Ellis for their first visit to the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games & Celtic Festival.
“I just got off work, and she said, ‘The Scottish Highland Games are on,’” Ellis said. “So I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’”
Isla had fun on an impromptu bridge over one of the few wet spots at the E. H. Young Riverfront Park, where the area’s two-day 38th festival wrapped up.
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Nearby, Lynda Anderson had just explained why men traditionally did the wool weaving that she was demonstrating. Women spun the wool into yarn because it took seven spinners to keep busy one weaver, the husband.
“They’d stick dad over in the dark somewhere away from the fireplace,” Anderson said to the delight of an onlooking Carmen Ortiz of Eudora, Kan.
Cheri McDonald, another demonstrator at the station, extolled the virtues of wool. It not only will repel water but also can “self-extinguish” five seconds after being removed from any source of flame, she told onlookers.
The men Sunday tried their hands at athletic contests, including the always popular caber toss. The task is straightforward enough: lift an 80-pound, 17-foot-long pole and toss it end over end in a straight line.
Aaron McGhee, 35, of Gardner has been doing just that four about five years and tested his skill in the B Class competition Sunday. The B Class standing means McGhee has won a beginner event, or C Class.
His second toss Sunday, out of three in the caber competition, took a turn toward a nearby photo gallery but scored a successful flip.
Judges look to see where the pole lands relative to the competitor’s release point, as if on the face of a clock.
“It was a good toss,” McGhee said. “They scored it at 1 o’clock. Twelve would be a perfect score.”
McGhee borrows his brother’s caber for practice. Techniques for a good toss include getting a good pick (lifting and balancing the pole on its end) and getting “low enough explode through so you’re actually turning it,” McGhee said.
Throughout the two-day games and festival, men sported kilts, children battled in sack races, whiskey tasters wet their tongues, bands entertained and visitors sampled the food and drinks.
A traditional dance competition saw Theresa Caughron, 11, and Mary Clare Caughron, 10, showing a beginners’ take on the Flora MacDonald dance.
Cheri Nelson was among those cheering on the many competitors Sunday, having turned an umbrella into a parasol to ward off the sun’s rays.
“I burn so easily,” the St. Joseph resident said.
And, of course, the air was filled with bagpipes, including a rendition of “Wings” by the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipes & Drums.