ARARAT, Va. — Clothes naturally get skimpier with warmer weather, but this will be even more evident on June 2 when kilt-wearing sportsmen and others invade Ararat, Va., for the fifth-annual Scottish Highland Games at Laurel Hill.
The event celebrating the Scottish heritage of many families in this area will be held on the grounds of the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace just across the state line on Route 773.
And while such a celebration at the birth site of a Confederate general might seem out of place, that’s not the case, since Stuart’s family was of Scottish descent, according to Tom Bishop, a member of the historic site’s board of directors.
“So it fits very well with the birthplace site,” Bishop said Friday of the festival, which will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 2, rain or shine.
As the name of the event suggests, the highlight of the day will be competition among kilt-wearing athletes in traditional Scottish games such as the caber toss. It involves contestants hurling large wooden poles, of up to 19 feet in length and weighing 140 pounds, by cupping one end in their hands.
Then there is the sheaf toss, involving the throwing of 20-pound sacks over a goalpost-like structure using a three-tine pitchfork; the 22-pound hammer throw; and similar activities with 28- and 56-pound weights, along with the “Braemar,” a 20-pound stone throw.
The festival also will be full of pageantry, featuring performances by a bagpipes and drum corps and a parade of tartans — a panoramic event in which various clans represented there display their respective colors of differing patterns of plaid. Participating families usually have tables set up displaying their coats of arms to provide information about their clans.
Celtic music performers also are expected.
Numerous vendors, some offering clothing and other items mirroring the Scottish theme, as well as exhibits will be part of the event as well, along with food and craft vendors and tables manned by local historic and other organizations.
“People dearly love to come to Laurel Hill,” said Bishop, who is also executive director of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce. While the Stuart birthplace is best known for its Civil War re-enactments and encampments that have occurred there for more than 20 years, the Highland Games are growing in popularity as well.
Bishop cited the scenic mountain backdrop at that location and its rolling foothills, which are reminiscent of the Scottish countryside.
“We actually have had people from Scotland there,” he said, mentioning that some had been expected while others just showed up for the festival.
In past years, the Scottish Highland Games at Laurel Hill have been held in April, but were moved to the June 2 date this year because of a conflicting event elsewhere. Bishop pointed out that the athletes involved travel to various competitions during the year as part of a circuit.
“So we were sort of forced to come up with a new date,” he explained.
Admission will cost $6, but is free for persons 12 and younger. Parking also is free.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.