Great Scot! Highland Games take over Greenbank

Jordan Akins

Whenever Grayson Akins returns to campus at Western Washington University and talks about her summer athletic endeavors back home on Whidbey Island, she’s often met with a blank stare.

New friends are dumbfounded, yet curious, to learn more about tossing logs, stones and hay that are part of the athletic segment of the Whidbey Highland Games.

“Explaining it is always really interesting,” said Akins, 20, who lives in Oak Harbor and will be a senior at Western in the fall. “It sounds like you’re standing in a field wearing something weird and throwing heavy things.”

Wearing a Scottish kilt and tossing large objects across a field is not something Akins would have ever envisioned she’d be doing after graduating from Coupeville High School.

Yet Akins, her older sister, Jordan, and their dad, Andrew, all tried it out several years ago and got hooked. The trio will compete in the 16th annual event at Greenbank Farm Saturday, Aug. 9.

“I think it’s great,” said Andrew Akins, who’s been at it the longest in the family, guessing about six years. “It took me a while to talk them into it. They were a little bit resistant.”

“We didn’t know this existed,” said Jordan Akins, 22.

Athletic competition such as the caber toss, stone put and sheaf toss are only a part of the Highland Games, which is a celebration of Scottish culture.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, the event also will feature Highland piping, drumming and dancing competitions. A variety of Celtic performances will take place on the main stage. There also will be food vendors and a beer garden.

Cost to attend is $10 for adults, $7 for children, seniors; military and kids 4 and under are free.

The Highland games are played out in various communities around the United States and Canada as well as in Scotland, where the Cowal Highland Gathering held in Dunoon attracts thousands of competitors.

The state’s largest event is the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games, which draws about 30,000 and took place last week in Enumclaw.

About 50 people from Washington, Oregon and Canada are signed up to compete in athletics here, with seven participants from the island.