You might think you're strong but it will take more than a few trips to the gym to successfully compete in the heavy athletics at the Scottish Games and Gathering. But the good news is, the annual event is just as fun from the sidelines.
Returning to the Kern County Fairgrounds this Saturday and Sunday, the event is the place to celebrate all things Scottish. In addition to watching in awe as strong men and women lift and throw large objects (and maybe deciding to give it a try yourself), guests can also enjoy food, music and more.
"We've been doing this 24 years but a lot of people have never been to the games," said Bruce Marshall, chieftain of the Kern County Scottish Society, which puts on the annual event. "They can come out and have a good time in a family-friendly atmosphere and come and see what we're about."
While there is plenty of other fun to be had at the event, it wouldn't be the Scottish Games without the heavy athletics. Professional athletes come from all over to compete in the Scottish Heavy Athletics-sanctioned games. Each will compete in the full series of sports, which include the stone throw, the weight for distance, the weight for height, the hammer throw and the caber toss.
While all are impressive, the caber toss is maybe just a little bit more so. In it, athletes lift a wooden log the size of a telephone pole and have to toss it. But it's not enough just to get it in the air and back on the ground. Competitors aim for a specific 12 o'clock position.
Amateurs who want to give it all a shot can do so in the novice round on Sunday, though Marshall warned it can be a humbling experience.
"It's not as easy (as it looks)," Marshall said. "I did them all. You go through the whole succession."
Other than a difference in the caber — novices will use a metal pole of the same weight and height because the wood one would be more expensive to replace — the games are done the same way whether the competitor is pro or amateur.
"It's the same weight, same rules," Marshall said. "They're not giving us any slack at all."
The heavy athletics won't be the only thing to impress guests this weekend.
"We'll have jousting this year, which is new," Marshall said. "We try to have something new every year to keep it interesting."
Another big draw of the event is the live music, with performances both days. While most bands are local, Brick Top Blaggers will come from Los Angeles to perform on Sunday. Ploughboys will also play only on the second day of the event. Whiskey Galore and Dublin Rain will perform on Saturday. Banshee in the Kitchen and Wrenwood Sessions will be there both days.
For food, guests can enjoy some traditional Scottish fare like meat pies, bangers and, of course, haggis. Though the haggis won't be exactly like it's made in Scotland, due to a U.S. ban on sheep lung, Marshall said it's still pretty close.
"Whether you have the lung or not, I don't think there's a difference in taste," he said.
Other food available for purchase will be tri-tip, pizza, tacos, fish and chips, hamburgers and ice cream, to name a few.
Also going on throughout the weekend will be a scotch tasting, a Birds of Prey demonstration, a petting zoo and re-enactments by Sjorvaldar Vikings and Darkwell Castle. There will be activities for the children too, including the kids athletic area.
The opening ceremonies at noon on Saturday will officially kick the weekend off. There, Dick Taylor, the recently retired director of Kern County Veterans Service, will be named chieftain for the day, and pipe bands will lead the March of the Clans.
Until last year, the Scottish Games were held over only one day. Now in its second year with two days, the gathering is finding its footing as a weekend event. Marshall said last year's attendance was a little low but hopes it will pick up this year as more people learn the event is on Saturday and Sunday.
"It gives people the opportunity to come out on Sunday, since a lot of people work on Saturday," he said.
With next year being the 25th annual Scottish Games, Marshall said the Kern County Scottish Society does want to do something to honor the milestone.
"We don't know what yet, but we want to make it a special 25-year celebration," he said.