Yes, we tried for an Olympic bid. Yes, it was probably the result of a drunken bar bet. But the fact remains that we're not hosting any Olympics past the Dumbest Street Renaming Kerfuffle And Its Ridiculous Resolution Olympics.
That's fine, though. Tulsa is more fit to host smaller events such as the Professional Bull Riders gig that came through recently, or events like the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
The money would be great of course, but in the end, there would be more trouble if we were chosen to host the games than there would be positives. I mean, look what happened to Greece. There are economists who place the blame for that country's economic waterloo squarely at the feet of the Athens Olympics.
What if there was an international festival that featured games that originated from other countries and was well-known around the world?
What if I told you it's entering its 34th year in the city of Tulsa?
That festival would be ScotFest, the premier Scottish Highland Games and Celtic music festival in the state of Oklahoma. It brings together families from around the nation and around the globe and features not only the highland games, but excellent musical entertainers with traditional folk and Celtic rock backgrounds, Celtic dance, crafts, food, and a terrific selection of beers.
The festival, originating in 1980 on the grounds of Holland Hall Middle School, is now a September tradition and has seen its rise into prominence over the last three decades, moving from locations such as Manion and Chandler Park to now Tulsa's River West Park -- the same place as Oktoberfest.
"We only had around 4,500 people when I first joined, we shook things up a bit, put more business model in and have gone from 4,500 in 2007 to 2012, when we had about 16,000, and we're aiming for 20,000 this year," ScotFest executive director Steven Campbell said about the growing popularity of the festival.
Born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland, Campbell moved to Oklahoma in 2006 and is in his sixth year with the festival as director after taking over in 2007.
"I saw a couple before and thought it represented what we were all about and thought I'd put my money were my mouth is and step up, help out, and I think we're doing alright," Campbell said of how he got involved with the festival.
As attendance has grown over the past three decades, so has the length of the event, which started out as a one-day shindig, and is now is a three-day Scottish extravaganza.
Beginning Friday and running through Sunday, ScotFest's theme this year is Clash of the Clans. Families or clans will celebrate their genealogy and family (clan) history.
Friday, ScotFest opens with live music and dancing for the attendees to come and enjoy, but the real fun begins Saturday with the Highland Games.
The games will consist of four competitions that go throughout Saturday and Sunday and will feature champions in different age, weight classes, and skill levels for both men and women. The competitions will take place in both center arenas and as per ScotFest rules, all competitors must compete in kilts.
The Caber Toss
The event is said to have begun when villagers needed to toss logs over small chasms so they could cross them. The large pole or the caber, which is similar to a telephone pole or power pole, normally 19 feet and 6 inches and weighing in at just around 175 pounds, is thrown by the athlete, and the winner is determined by who was able to throw the caber the farthest.
The Hammer Throw
Those involved aren't throwing your typical American hammer in this event. The competition, which became an Olympic event in 1900 has a long history that go back to its origins that involved rocks attached to wooden handles, chariot wheels attached to their axles and thrown, and even King Henry XVII was depicted in a drawing throwing a blacksmith's sledgehammer, before returning to its roots and became a metal ball attached to a wire.
The men's "hammer" weighs in at 16 pounds and measures almost four feet long, while the women's hammer weighs 8.82 pounds and is barely an inch shorter than the men's.
Much like the caber toss, the winner is determined by the farthest toss in the event.
The Sheaf Toss
This agricultural event got its start in country fairs.
Using a pitchfork, the athlete tosses a burlap sack over a horizontal beam just above the competitor's head. The competitor is given three chances to toss the 16-pound sack over the beam without touching the beam. After each competitor has gone, those who managed to throw the sack without touching the beam advance with the beam moving up in height.
This continues till there is one remaining athlete left in the competition.
Weight for Height
The event is a test for strength with the competitor tossing a spherical shaped weight made of steel or lead with a bell attached. Using only one hand, the athlete must toss the weight over a bar that is set at an increasing height. Each competitor is given three attempts per successful height reached.
Winners and places are determined by the maximum height reached with the fewest misses. The weights are determined by weight class with advanced men's class going as high as 56 pounds and women going to 28 pounds.
The athletes involved will come from all over, including highland game staple and Tulsa resident Dean Ross. The 70-year old Ross owns several highland game world records and continues to thrive well into his advanced age today, and is known to drive 10 hours to one event one day and then turn around and drive another 10 hours to another event the next day.
While Ross and other highland athletes will be the main event at the games, they won't be the only ones who get to have the fun, as the kids can register for The Kids Glen, which takes some of the best adult games like the caber toss and stone throw and brings them down to kids' size. The kids can also enjoy 3 legged, sack, and egg & spoon races.
"The one thing that is important to us is that the highland event is not only a cultural event, but a family inclusive cultural event," Campbell said.
ScotFest opens September 13 and runs through September 15. For more information on ScotFest, tickets, and Highland Game information, visit okscotfest.com.
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