NORWALK -- On Saturday afternoon, caber thrower Dan Dillon was shirtless, wearing a red plaid kilt and balancing an 18-foot, 140-pound log vertically in his hands.
With a heave and short yell, he flung the caber up and outward. It flipped over and fell to the ground in front of him, looking like a downed--but perfectly straight--telephone pole. The feat requires some muscles, but the real challenge is timing, Dillon said.
"It's a little bit of strength and a lot of technique," he said. "You have to pull at the right time. If you wait too long it's basic physics; the fewer degrees between the caber and the ground, the harder it is to flip it."
The caber toss was one of several events that took place during the 89th-annual Round Hill Highland Games, which celebrate Scottish culture and traditions. The event took place at Cranbury Park amid temperatures that climbed toward 100 degrees.
Winsted residents Glenna and John Maas said the heat didn't deter them from making the hour-and-a-half drive down to Norwalk. The couple has been attending the Highland Games for at least 20 years, Glenna said.
"Neither heat nor rain nor a long drive would keep us away," she said. "It's a nice tradition."
John said he looks forward to eating a bridie, which is a traditional Scottish meat pie. Glenna said her favorite part of the games is the bagpipe procession that concludes the event each year.
Trumbull resident David Curtis has been playing the bagpipes for three years. He said he fell in love with the instrument after hearing it as a 10-year-old.
"I just enjoy the sound of the bagpipes and decided to join one of the bands," he said. "I like the different events you go to, such as the Highland Games and the parades. I've made a lot of new friends and made a lot of good connections, as well. It's been a lot of fun."
Saturday was Norwalk resident Suzanne Kuizema's first trip to the games. She said she paid the $15 entrance fee because she was curious about the event, which has taken place in Cranbury Park for more than 20 years. In addition to heavy athletics and bagpipe performances, the Highland Games featured children's games, crafts, traditional Scottish dancing, food and drink.
"I just came to see it," Kuizema said. "It's something different. I've never seen anything like it before."
Dillon, a Long Island, N.Y., resident with Scottish ancestry, said professional caber tosses use 20- to 22-foot tall poles weighing about 160 pounds.
"I was an elite discus thrower," he said. "When that started to get old -- a lot of shot put and discus guys get into this. It's the original track and field sport."
Dillon said the caber toss's origins are unclear, although theories range from fording streams to building fortresses. Most likely, the event was born out of boredom, he said.
"The history is really unknown," Dillon said. "A lot of this stuff goes back to Scottish farm kids with nothing else to do."
Kate.King@scni.com; 203-964-2263; http://twitter.com/kcarliniking