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Say Hello to Clan McGopher

clan-mc-gopherSiteWI can remember it like it was yesterday… 1998. I was minding my own business when I heard a thundering herd of humans above me. I decided to pop my head out to see what was going on.

As I came out of my hole, I heard lots of noise, and saw people everywhere! I went down again, but my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take another peek. When I poked my head out, I saw men wearing skirts. PLAID skirts! Wow! I watched everyone laughing, shaking hands, hugging, eating, and what appeared to be having a grand time! I dropped back down and shook my head. I just had to watch more. Back up I popped, when I heard the sweetest sound. Someone was squeezing a plaid bag, but it sounded finer than a fiddle! Then I noticed someone had placed little flags around my hole. How nice.

I watched for the whole weekend and had lots of fun. They were such nice people. I was sad when they left. I wanted to know more about them… so I spent the next year researching and learning about my gopherology, er I mean genealogy. I found out I was a wee Scot! Not only that… I was the Laird (Head) of my Clan!

When they came back the following year, I came out of my hole looking forward to another weekend of watching “my people”. I was excited to see that someone had made me a tent and my very own Clan badge. I even had a tartan! Now I can’t wait for each year, to put on my Scottish wear and join in the fun. Come visit the Glen of the Clans at this year’s Sacramento Valley Scottish Games (April 23 and 24 at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland) and see Clan McGopher. I’m part of the Scottish families.

– Jamie McGopher

Man, These Athletics are Heavy!

heavy-athletesWLong before colonists began to settle the New World, Scotland had a lengthy history and culture. In Scotland, Heavy Athletics Events were already being held at least 1,000 years ago!

Historians believe that some of the Heavy Events originated during Druid times. Heavy Events began as tests of strength and conditioning for Scottish troops. A tree trunk would be made into a caber and tossed by the strongest military men. Smooth rocks from river beds would be heaved for distance. Lead weights would be tossed underhand over a bar more than twice as high as the athlete. The competitor who accumulated the most points from the contests would be the Heavy Events Champion. These are the origins of the Games. Contests to help figure out the best warriors of a Clan, or at least that is the story. Today the “heavy” events consists of six to seven events.

The one everyone remembers is the caber toss; which usually comes at the end of competition. The object is to turn the caber (pole) end over end so it lands with the small end pointing directly away from the contestant. Points are deducted, assuming it is turned, as it goes away from directly away. The caber usually weighs in between 100 – 200 pounds. By the way, distance has no bearing on the outcome.

The other events include: Scottish hammer toss, the “cannon ball on a stick”, weighs 16 – 22 pounds and the longest throw wins. Women throw a 12 and 16 pounder.

Weight for distance – 28 and 56 pound weights are thrown for distance, masters are allowed to use a 42 pound weight in place of the 56 pounder and women’s weights are 14 and 28 pounds.

Weight over the bar – A 56 pound weight is swung between the knees and tossed over a bar using one hand, highest toss wins. Masters use a 42 pounder and women a 28 pounder.

Putting the light stone – A stone weighing 16 pounds is thrown much like a modern day shotput, again longest throw wins. No break for masters in this one, but women use a 9 or 12 pounder.

Heavy stone – same idea as the light stone, only this one weighs 22 pounds for men and 16 for women.

We have also featured a sheaf toss – a weighed bag is tossed for height over the bar with a pitchfork.

The SVSG&F features 13 classes of Scottish athletics. One requirement is that all competitors wear a kilt. Cash prizes and medals are awarded the winners.

One of the popular venues on the Games our athletics competition draws a full field from all over. In 2015 Matt Vincent the top male Scottish athlete and Beth Hughes the third women athletes competed and in the past we have had competitors from as far away as Japan come to the Games.


Are you a Mac Whosits?

glen-of-clansWOK, you say you are of Scottish descent, “Grandma always said we were Clan Mac something”. Well the SVSG&F has one of the largest Glen of the Clans on the West Coast. So here is your golden opportunity to check it out and link up with your Scottish kin.

Scottish clans and family associations are great sources of information on your Scottish heritage and general Scottish history. The representatives, commonly called Clan Commissioners, are enthusiastic volunteers who are more than willing to help you figure out if you are part of the family. So, be sure and explore the Glen of the Clans. Plus you can join your Scottish family during the Parade of the Clans at the noon ceremonies each day.

The Games presents a Best Clan award following the Sunday Parade of the Clans based on the quality of the Clan’s display, information provided and hospilitity. In 2015 Clan Douglas won the award and as part of the award gets to lead in the Parade of the Clans each day.

As Clans register we will update the Games website’s listing, be sure and check it out. See you April 23 and 24th. You can get discount tickets via the Games website, be a thrifty Scot.

Extra! Extra!

Our first media ad is in the works, and we’re sharing an advance look at it below. Pretty cool, huh? The ad will first appear in Inside Publications’ March issue. Keep an eye out for it. As always, check on the Games website for updated information and of course discount tickets. See you in April!


Counting Down!

april-calendarWow, just a little over 2 months till the Games. The Committee met last night and with over 30 of us in the room the excitement was palpable. Things are well in hand and everyone is busy with competition registrations starting, lining up volunteers (we can always use more) and finalizing their set up plans.

You would be surprised at what it takes to present The Friendly Games – miles of duct tape, tents, dance platforms, tables and chairs, sound systems, bleachers, bails of hay and all sorts of gear. Counting down the days!

Thanks to our Sponsors!

background-with-thank-you-noteWA big thank you!! to the latest 2016 SVSG&F sponsors and underwriters.

  • George and Nancy Morrow at the Marquis level
  • Brian and Kyla Groeschel underwriting the Karly Kinter Todd Memorial National Highland Dance Trophy
  • Daughters of Scotia, Kinwinning Lodge #203 – underwriting the Best Sacramento Area Highland Dancer Trophy
  • Scottish and Newcastle Importers Co. – underwriting the Scottish and Newcastle Dancer of the Year Trophy
  • Saint Andrews Society of Sacramento – underwriting the Robert MacDonald Memorial Broadsword for Highland Dance
  • Sacramento Firefighters Pipes and Drums – US Scottish Drum Major Championship

We really appreciate our sponsors and underwriters, please be sure and express your thanks too.

Full details about our Sponsor/Underwriter opportunities are on the Games website, under the Sponsorship page. Or contact the Sponsor Chair at

Faigh ‘ur ticeads!*

ticketssmWCongratulations! to J. Lewis of Sacramento, who was the first person to buy a ticket to the 140th Anniversary Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival. Advance tickets, at a discount, are now available at We look forward to welcoming all guests to the 140th, April 23 and 24, 2016 at the Yolo County Fairground in Woodland, CA.

*Get your tickets!

Time to get your tickets!

ticket-lineWCalling all thrifty folk! You know who you are. Our advance tickets go on sale January 15, 2016. Purchasing your tickets from the Games website ticket page nets you a nice discount from the gate prices, so don’t delay.

That way you not only get a nice discount, you don’t have to wait in line at the ticket booths. You just buy your tickets on line, print them out before you head to the Yolo County Fairgrounds, have it scanned at the gate and you are in and ready to have fun at the Friendly Games.

Happy Hogmanay!

hogmannyWHogmanay – Wishing everyone a tall dark haired first footie on Hogmanay (New Years Day). Scots have celebrated Hogmanay going back to the Norse celebration of the winter solstice and the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. Christmas was not celebrated much after the Reformation in Scotland, so Hogmanay got a lot of attention. For the historic minded, Christmas only became a public holiday in Scotland in 1958!

Hope to see all of you at the 140th Anniversary Games, April 23 and 24, 2016, Yolo County Fairgrounds, Woodland, CA. You should be all recovered from Hogmanay by then.