IN PICTURES: ‘A culture of survival’: ScotsFest brings games, food, whiskey to Queen Mary

At 6-foot-8, weighing 300 pounds, with flowing locks falling onto his face, Colin Dunbar’s mom thinks he looks like a cross between Samson and Jesus. On Saturday he hoisted a 175-pound caber pole to his shoulder, and flipped it skyward as if it were a Louisville Slugger.

Colin Dunbar grasps the caber during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

The fans at the 27th annual ScotsFestival at the Queen Mary droned a collective “ooooh.”

More than 8,000 people came for the first day of the event to watch Dunbar and dozens of other men and women compete in a variety of Scottish Highland games. Most of the contests involve hefting or hurling heavy things like rocks, poles and hay.

Dunbar is of Scottish descent and he had the chance to visit the homeland last year. (There’s a Dunbar Castle on the Eastern shore.)

“These games all reflect a culture of survival in harsh conditions,” Dunbar said. “You’re living off land that’s a rain-drenched swamp 10 months of the year.  Farmers have to move boulders out of their fields, lumberjacks have to toss tree trunks into the rivers.”

Dunbar, a former Long Beach State track and field star, is in his second season as a pro. This weekend’s contests feature pro and amateur athletes in both men’s and women’s division.

Vivian Guerreschi makes her toss in the Weight Over Bar competition during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games at the Queen Mary. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

The ScotsFestival continues through Sunday and also features Highland Dancing competitions. There are piping, drumming and marching contests with the grand parade passing by the Queen Mary at noon.

And the food. If sheep entrails are your thing, you’ll be able to find haggis somewhere in the shadow of the Queen (grab a glass of whiskey first to clean your palate).

For information on how to attend, click here.

The 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games are held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Photo by Bill Alkofer
Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Former Long Beach City College track star Jennifer McClain watches her heavy hammer fly. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

A woman participates in a stone carry during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Cristian Bineckner represented Clan MacColin during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Scottish bagpipe bands paraded during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Jarvina Routt tosses her stone during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

SoCal Herding held a border collie demonstration. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

A hammer throw competitor watches his follow-through. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

A competitor follows through in the sheaf toss contest. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Victoria Hinkley releases her heavy hammer SoCal Herding held a border collie demonstration. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Nicole Sabay watches her hammer throw during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Randall White performs with the Pasadena Scottish Pipes & Drums during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Erica Stewart and her twin sister Jamie competed in the sword dance competition. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Families paraded their Scottish plaids during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Families paraded their Scottish plaids, Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Norm Montgomery represented Clan MacColin during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Colin Dunbar tosses his caber. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

SoCal Herding held a border collie demonstration. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

SoCal Herding held a border collie demonstration during the 27th annual ScotsFestival & International Highland Games at the Queen Mary in Long Beach on Saturday, February 15, 2020. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

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Bill Alkofer, a contributing photographer for the Long Beach Post, has been shooting pictures professionally for 38 years, including stints at the Orange County Register, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Daily News. If you see him out shooting photos, ask him why—and settle in for a very long and thorough answer.
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