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Celebrate all that’s Scottish at today’s Highland Games

Donna Graham wants everyone to know that, as part of the 45th Highland Games today at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center, there will be a demonstration on the proper way to wear a kilt.

“We’ve run into several gentlemen who insist that the pleats go in the front,” said Graham, who runs the St. Andrews Society of the Inland Empire. “But they can’t figure out why the kilt pin keeps sticking them in the back of the leg.”

So, you see, the Highland Games will perform a service for all — even for those who wear the family tartan.

The St. Andrews Society was formed in 1955 “to encourage the study and promotion of Scottish history, literature, music, dance, customs, sports and culture.”

The Highland Games is one of the ways they celebrate that culture.

Highland Games have been contested for more than nine centuries and were first held by order of Scottish King Malcolm Canmore. The first games in the Inland Northwest were held in 1959 in Coeur d’Alene, coinciding with an annual Scottish Picnic that started in 1935.

In various years, the games have ranged from a full-blown athletic competition, as it will be today, to a pipe-band contest featuring artists from Washington, Idaho, Alberta and British Columbia.

Today’s games feature traditional Scottish athletic games — throwing the caber, throwing the hammer (a 16-pound stone attached to a 50-inch handle), throwing weight for distance (which resembles the tradition track-and-field hammer throw), and throwing weight for height.

According to Graham, it might be good for the athletes to check out the kilt-wearing demonstration before their event.

“These are good-sized men,” she said. “When they are throwing, they like to get down and get a really good grip, so they hike up their kilt so they can put a hand on their thigh so they can push off.”

In so doing, they inadvertently answer that age-old question: What does a Scotsman wear underneath his kilt.

“Fortunately, they all have something on underneath,” Graham laughed. “I’m sure we do have a few who prefer to go Regimental underneath, but they aren’t entered in any of the events.”

There will also be smaller versions of the games for the youngsters.

“What is really great is when we get one of the athletes from the big games to come over and demonstrate,” Graham said. “The kids’ eyes get really big while they watch. It’s like seeing their heroes in action.”

The games kick off at 9 a.m., but the fun really begins to pick up at noon, when there is a parade of clans, complete with pipes and drums. There will be live entertainment, including local band Crooked Kilt and balladeer Red McWilliams.

There will be demonstrations of blacksmithing, spinning and weaving and traditional Scottish foods.

“We will have haggis,” Graham said. “But we’ll also have lamb burgers and shepherd’s pie and other dishes.”