ATHENA - Erik Lynde stood near Noah Dorsett, 11, and advised him how to hold the caber - a large, four-by-four-shaped object which Dorsett was attempting to heft into the air.

"Hold it close to your shoulder," Lynde said. "Balance it there. Then creep up and when you feel it come off your shoulder, throw it upward."

Noah listened closely and tossed the caber nearly vertically. Noah seemed pleased with himself and hefted the caber three more times.

Noah was participating in the first-ever kids games at the annual Caledonian Games in Athena.

The Caledonian Games are held the second weekend in July and encompass all things Scottish from pipe bands to highland dancing to sheep dog trials and athletic competitions.

This year, children like Noah got a chance to get in on the fun with the kids games.

Noah came from Portland with his parents to see the Scottish festival. His mother, Joyce Dorsett, grew up in Pendleton and said she has been to the Caledonian Games almost every year, even after moving to Portland.

"These are the best games," she said. "They're so friendly and the kids have so much fun."

While the caber toss was fairly easy for Noah, other kids had more trouble balancing the whittled down board. There were two cabers, one made from a four-by-four and another made from a two-by-four. The boards were tapered on both ends to imitate the 75 pound caber used in the adult games.

Lynde was patient and enthusiastic with the kids, while showing them how to heft it.

"It's kind of fun, isn't' it?" Lynde asked with a Scottish accent.

Lynde, who grew up in Athena but now lives in Walla Walla and coordinated the kids games, said he was playing it by ear and adjusting the games according to the number interested and their level of enthusiasm.

"They want to do what the big guys do," he said. "They give it a whirl and find it's fun."

Kaitlyn Heusser, 12, from Boise, also said she had a good time tossing the caber.

She came to the Caledonian Games with her sister and grandmother, who play in the Boise Highland Pipe Band. Kaitlyn is learning the snare drum but still is too young to play with the band.

"I get to practice with them," she said proudly.

As the kids threw the cabers, other activities buzzed around Athena's City Park. Nearby, highland dancers competed on stage while a piper played tunes to match.

"The piper needs to know all the dances and steps," said Caledonian Games Chairwoman Sue Friese. "It's really quite complicated."

Around noon on Saturday, Friese said she was impressed with how things were going.

"We've got a pretty good crowd," she said. "It's a beautiful day."

Stretching between the park and the athletic fields sat an array of booths filled with both crafts and food.

A new booth this year is the Quick Silver Mint, run by Keith Smith, of San Diego. He pressed coin-shaped medallions on both sides with designs customers picked out.

The machine he used is a replica of one designed by Leonardo da Vinci and used in the 1500s to make coins. He said factories would be filled with the machines where one man cranked the lever to lift the weight while another put the molds in place and coins in place.

Operating it alone, Smith placed each mold for a given design on either side of a small slot where he inserted either a bronze, silver or gold medallion. Next, he cranked a large weight high into the air, like the blade of a guillotine. Then he rang a bell, called out, "striking!" at the top of his lungs and let the weight fall.

Afterward, a finely pressed medallion emerged from below the weight and between the molds.

The fields near Weston-McEwan High School were another hotbed of activity.

On the athletic field, sheep dogs, handlers and small flocks twisted and turned around obstacle courses while spectators looked on.

Nearby, the large green tent marked the main event at the festival: The athletic games.

Adults compete in an array of classic Scottish games including sheaf toss (tossing a sheaf of straw for height), stone toss (tossing a stone for distance), rolling pin toss (tossing a rolling pin to unseat a ball balanced on a pole) and the caber toss.

Two regulars at the Caledonian Games returned this year to uphold their reputation of earning top tier places in the athletic events.

Kyle Daley and Eric Wechter began with a good start, taking first and second place in the weight toss.

Both men make a circuit throughout the summer attending festivals and games throughout the Northwest. They said they enjoyed Athena for the atmosphere and the people.

"It's a lot of fun," Wechter said. "I like the town. I like the park here. It's really friendly."

He enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowd. At larger competitions, people often are distracted by other events, but in Athena, people focus on a single event and the athletes participating. The crowd under the green tent lets loose a cheer when a competitor does well and issues a a moan when he or she lucks out.

The Caledonian Games continue through today with breakfast, sheep dog trials, a horseshoe tournament and lots of music

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