Highland Games draws crowds of spectators

Apr. 29—OXFORD — Some 60 kilted athletes participated in a variety of competitions at the third annual Highland Games on Saturday.

Held on the grounds of Central Children's Home of NC, with proceeds going to its benefit, the athletes tossed cabers, or long wooden poles, hammers and shot put-sized stones longways and sheafs, or weighted cubes, and solid metal weights upwards.

Kayshon Mitchell, a competitor in the caber toss and onetime track star, got into the games thanks to one of his teachers. He stayed with it in part due to his enjoyment of lifting heavier and heavier objects and testing his own strength.

When preparing to toss the caber, Mitchell and others work their hands down the pole, nice and easy, until they've got it balanced with their hands underneath. Then, they lift it up, carry and throw it, hopefully flipping it against the ground.

A new addition this year was stone lifting — a group carried a concrete ball a bit bigger than a globe and tossed it as far as they could.

Dr. Bill Crawford, something of an expert on the subject, offered a brief explanation — "stones are defiant," he said. "Knowing the stone" and where exactly to place one's hands is important in the process of lifting it.

The exercise dates back thousands of years.

Another athlete in that event simply said he was glad to be helping kids. Indeed, the event was for the benefit of the CCHNC. The roof over its pavilion is filled with holes, leaking and getting worse each year, said Director Angela Williams. The board got a few quotes ranging from $49,000 or so to more than $100,000.

Donations can be sent online at or via mail at 211 West Antioch Drive. The home was first licensed when Chester Arthur was president — 1883 — and has been in operation ever since.

Onlookers could try their hand with organizer Buck Buchanan's lifting stones.

Eric Johnson did just that, nearly getting the some-two hundred pound over his head. He came down from Boston to participate in a triathlon with his brother — an injury kept him from running, so he lifted the stone instead, he joked.

The Triangle Sword Guild also came out and demonstrated some Napoleonic-era fencing — unlike modern fencing, duelists in that era weren't wearing protective gear, explained Michael Brown, an instructor in the subject.

It's partly a sport and partly scholarly study, as students read over old books and learn how instructors centuries ago taught.

"It's a history class where you get to hit each other," Brown summarized. Their tent was popular with the kids.

He got into the idea after buying a sword on a vacation to Spain. He was also learning to play the bagpipes at the time and those two interests converged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking of bagpipes, two bands showed up to perform — Jamestown Pipes and Drums out of Jamestown and the An Gorta Mór Memorial Pipe Band out of Wake County. The latter is named after the Irish words for "the Great Hunger," commonly known as the Potato Famine. Around a million people died from 1845-52.

Appropriately, the group has a mission to reduce food scarcity, making donations to the Tri-Area Ministries Food Bank.

Vendors were out with a variety of goods including the famous haggis, meat bridies — pasties stuffed with spiced beef and onions — Scottish shortbread, and tablet, a caramel-like confection that melts in one's mouth.

Director of Tourism Angela Allen was present at the event, as always. Looking at the crowds of people milling about the field, she praised Buchanan for having the idea those two or so years ago.

Organizing events like that takes two ingredients — the idea and the wherewithal to follow through. She works towards the latter, connecting organizers with needed resources.

This time of year is all about culture and showcasing the county's diversity — from the Viking Experience to the upcoming CultureFest. Those events have helped create a spring season for the county, said Allen.