Portland’s Annual Highland Games
Monday 8 February 2016 — Category: Outings
Because of the state’s nine-month rainy season, Oregonians tend to live it up during the summer. It can seem as if they pack a whole year’s worth of activities and events into a few short months. Last year my photography was inspired by the Summer Events Guide 2015: 50 things to do around Portland while it’s warm.
Trying to squeeze so many activities into such a limited amount of time means that quite often there will be more than one event on any given weekend. This was certainly the case on Saturday, July 18th, when there were no less than seven events taking place in the Portland area!
Obviously I couldn’t attend them all, so I narrowed it down to three, which would still be a bit of a challenge. Due to the infernal heat that day, I ended up attending only two of them.
By 6:00 a.m. I was on the road to the eastern Portland suburb of Gresham, where the 63rd annual Portland Highland Games was being held on the Mt. Hood Community College campus. When the gates opened at 8:00, I was there, camera in hand, ready to capture the Celtic sights.
And what unusual sights (and sounds) were awaiting me! The caterwauling of dozens of bagpipers warming up on their instruments led me to the large grassy area in the center of the running track. The early-morning sunlight made getting a good shot a bit challenging, but as I wandered around the field I took quite a few keepers.
Bagpipers were not the only attraction. In addition to drummers, there was also a number of food stands serving delicious-looking goodies. It made me sad that I had already eaten breakfast before I arrived. Later in the day there would be plenty of beer, ale and whiskey available for tasting, but alas, I would miss out on that as well. Apparently I would have to feed only on the joy of photography!
After I had my fill of bagpipes, I headed over to the nearby Upper Field where the Heavy Athletics Events were being held. The key word here is heavy! In one corner of the field, kilted contestants were seeing who could fling a 28-pound weight the farthest. In another section, athletes were attempting to heave a 56-pound weight over a horizontal bar high above their heads.
But the most impressive and grueling event was the Celtic musclemen who were tossing the 96-pound “Portland Stone” as far as they could. I spent most of my time at this contest, getting some great action shots. It was only around 9:15, but it was already quite toasty, with hardly any shade to shelter in.
By 10:00 I was ready to hit the road. Unfortunately, I was going to miss many events, like the Caber Toss, the Kilted Mile Race, the Border Collie Sheepherding Demonstration, Highland Dance Competitions, Pipe Band Competitions, Celtic Music Performances, a Tug of War, a Dance Social, and more — it was quite a full schedule of events!
However, I had other things to do in Portland that day, and I wanted to escape the excessive heat by early afternoon. Passing by the ducks keeping cool in the picturesque campus pond, I made my way back to my truck and on to my next stop in downtown Portland — which will be the topic of a future article.
During my short two-hour stay I took about 360 photos! The best 69 are on display in the new Portland Highland Games 2015 album. An additional 45 images are incorporated into nine photo sequences, which show some of the athletes in action.
The next Portland Highland Games will be held at the same location on July 16, 2016. If this article has fired up your Celtic blood, you might want to plan on attending — and spending the entire day there if you can. As their Web site says: “Experience the Spirit of the Scots!”