ATHENA — A gathering of clans, friends, families, athletes, Highland dancers and pipers will celebrate the Athena Caledonian Games this weekend.
Highlighting all things Scottish, the annual tradition includes professional and amateur athletes who compete alongside one another and have a great time, said Sue Friese, Athena Caledonian Games president. Skills that are based in Scottish history and farm life are now used in athletic competition.
The most famous event is the caber toss, featuring a telephone–like pole that is thrown end-over-end. Other events include throwing objects in the air for height measurements, including hammers, hay bales and the weight toss. Alan Wernsing of Athena is the athletic director, a post he has held for three decades.
Athena Caledonian Games runs Friday through Sunday in and around Athena City Park. There is no admission charge.
After a six-year hiatus, the Highland Dance Competition returns for this year’s event. Cassandra Humphrys of Mid-Columbia School of Highland Dance in Richland, Wash., is coordinating the effort. While some of the dancers are local, early registrations indicate competitors are also coming from Portland, Spokane, Boise and beyond.
While the pool of piping competitors is small, it’s had a mighty impact on Caledonian Games over the years, Friese said. Piping judge Eric Albert, who hails from Eugene, also will be featured at the Tattoo (an outdoor concert Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the Athena-Weston High School stadium). He will perform some World War II piping tunes commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. In addition, he will play at the Caledonian Candle Lighting Ceremony, a blessing of the clans and festival, which kicks off the event Friday at 7 p.m. at the park.
Athletes who haven’t signed up can register Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m. An athlete meeting will be held at 11:45 a.m., with the competitions starting at noon. Registration for the kids’ athletic contests is from 9-10 a.m., with the competitions running from 10-11:30 a.m.
In addition to a full day of athletic contests, Saturday also features lots of dancing and a variety of other acts — including everything from dramatic poetry reading and storytelling to telling jokes, singing and playing instruments — all with a Scottish flavor.
Sunday’s activities include the Kirkin’ of the Tartan, a church service at the park at 9:30 a.m. A coffee hour will follow the church service.
“You don’t have to wear a kilt to Athena, but it sure is fun if you have one,” Friese said.