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Highland games showcase Lucas

8/25/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

LUCAS -- Bagpipe music and athletes' grunts filled the air Saturday during the fourth annual Lucas Highland Games in Lucas City Park.

Logs, stones and metal objects were flung as 22 contestants tried to outdo each other with their feats of strength. Ranging in age from 9 to mid-70s, many of the participants wore multi-colored kilts to honor the ancient Scottish tradition.

One athlete's young children cheered as their father impaled a bag of bale twine with a pitchfork and threw it over a bar several feet in the air. The sheaf toss traces its origins to farmers competing to see who could throw bales of straw the highest.

The caber toss challenged participants to grip a log, launch it forward and flip it. Top points went to those who could land the wood in front of themselves in the 12 o'clock position. Ranging in size from at least 12 feet and up to 150 pounds, the increasing weight often forced the throwers to stagger backwards and lose control of the wooden beam.

Three family members went head-to-head with each other.

John Douglas, Ellis, said his two sons joined him. He returned to the games for the fourth year because of friendships.

"One of the reasons is just the camaraderie. Everybody is just friends once you get here, even if it's your very first time. They accept you," Douglas said. "A lot of the guys did track and field, you know, got a little bit older. But it's like a track and field event."

The kilts add a special element to the games because it is not the typical sports uniform.

"Three-hundred-pound guys running around in kilts, you know, changes things for people," he said.

Devon Leach, Douglas' son, said it was his first experience at the Lucas games. The family's friendly rivalry was clear as Leach shared his motivation for competing.

"Him," he said, pointing towards his father. "Beat him in some of these events. He's been doing it for years."

The competitive spirit added to the three men's bond.

"It brings us together," Leach said.

Brody Douglas said he and his brother grew up around the contest.

"You start getting to know the people, and everybody helps you out and makes you get your form down. And then you start getting better and better," he said. "It's just like one giant community out here, one big family. It makes you want to keep coming back."

The event is organized by a married couple, Doug and Jera Kressly.

Doug Kressly said the games complement the Adam's Apple Festival in Lucas the same day. Both events encourage people to support local businesses and visit the nearby Garden of Eden. The Lucas Highland Games also entertain people of all ages, he said.

"It's very family friendly. You have some like Strongman. It's fun, but they're not as family friendly," Kressly said. "There's a little bit of foul language sometimes, and they're pretty testosteroney guys. We're just pretty laid back."

His wife said the event's food and awards were purchased locally to support the area.