Caledonian Games offers something old, something new

Peter Elder, from Cove, Ore., plays “McCloud Salute” during  the bagpiping competition at Caledonian Games on Saturday in Athena.

Peter Elder, from Cove, Ore., plays “McCloud Salute” during the bagpiping competition at Caledonian Games on Saturday in Athena. Photo by Greg Lehman.




ATHENA — The annual Caledonian Games are going on this weekend, and along with them a couple of new attractions have been added, as well as the elimination of one major event.

This year, the dancing competition had to be canceled because there were no judges. This was primarily due to a major West Coast Caledonian event taking place this same weekend in Arizona. But there was still plenty of judging going on Saturday in Athena.

“In the initial part, the judge is staring at you and looking kind of scary,” said bagpipes competitor Grant Harbison of Boise.

In addition to the pipes, the drums and the Highland sporting game also require certified judges. And Eric Albert of Springfield, Ore., is one of those judges.

“A performance can be very good technically and not have a lot of musicality behind it,” Albert said.

Pipes judging is broken down to three categories: technique and execution, tuning and tone, and musicality.

After 30 years of playing the pipes, Albert said he decided to become a certified judge. But he also helped out on Saturday by playing for an unjudged Highland dancing variety show.

Athena Caledonian Games Association President Sue Friese said depending on the event, judges make about $200 to $300 for the day, and the association might kick in a small gas stipend for judges traveling long distance, which is almost always the case.

Many judges will tour a circuit in the West, and Albert said he will be traveling from Seattle to Portland to Monterey, Calif., this year.

Pipe judging is broken down into a number of grades, including a youth grade.

“I think I crushed the competition because I was the only guy on the field,” Harbison joked, noting that his grade had no other entries. “You have to have an instrument that sounds good and is in tune ... Honestly, you are supposed to let the pipes do that talking.”

While the pipes do the talking, Albert does the listening as pipers play memorized pieces that last anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes.

Other new events at this year’s Caledonian Games include a special display of historical aprons, not to be confused with kilts.

“They may not even be Scottish, and that is OK because it is part of the community,” Friese said.

Also new this year is a historical performance by the Knights of Veritas, which features a fully garbed Scottish knight at 11:30 a.m.

Events going on today include the sheepdog trials at 8 a.m., a variety of musical performances throughout the day, a number of clan tables for those interested in discussing Scottish heritage, the apron display and a community horseshoe tournament at 2 p.m.


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