Q&A: Cameron Broyles, a Demonstrator of "Highland heavy athletics" at the 6th Dandridge Scots-Irish Music Festival

Ranked 64th by the North American Scottish Games Athletics in 2011 among Class B amateurs, Cameron Broyles will demonstrate his prowess at the 6th Dandridge Scots-Irish Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 29.

What will you demonstrate, exactly?

The best description is really "Highland heavy athletics." At most festivals, there tend to be other athletics going on, sponsored by different clans, such as the Kilted Mile or the Ladies' Haggis Hurl. They are more for fun; this type of event is more serious for the participants.

How in the world did you start?

I volunteered two years ago at Maryville, as a spotter at the Smoky Mountain Highland Games. I started asking, "How would one go about this?" and found out about nasgaweb.com, which is a big database listing of festivals across the nation. I found a game in Blairsville, Ga., and called and asked if there was a registration fee. There was not, so we got in the car as a family and drove down early. I got a clinic before the games got started.

How'd you do?

I went into it thinking I was going to own—I did rather well, came in the middle of the pack. I had only one practice beforehand. It has turned out to be a very interesting hobby. It's definitely a conversation piece. Any time I wear my kilt, people ask, "Do you throw that big telephone pole thing?" and it's my pleasure to say, "Yes, I do."

Anyone else in the family compete?

Actually, yes, my wife competed last year with me. She hasn't competed this year due to a shoulder injury. And my son is 5 years old, and he competes in the kids' games at the festivals.

Did you do shot-put or disc in high school?

I did not. The only thing was the caber—the giant telephone pole thing? As a kid we had a long log meant for a flower box underneath our porch. I would drag it out in the backyard and pretend I was a highland athlete. My dad wondered what I was up to, but it came in handy...

Can you bench a lot of weight?

I don't really bench press much—150 pounds probably. But these events are not so much strength as skill. I'd say 95 percent skill. A lot of the guys who compete in the masters are 40-60 and they are smaller but better than the younger guys—the old guys show ‘em up. But they share their tips and advice; everyone who travels around to the festivals becomes a big family.

Are there cash prizes involved?

The under-200 [pounds per competitor] and B and C amateur classes mostly compete for trophy prizes. The cash prizes are generally reserved for the pro divisions, and they can be quite nice.

What's your favorite of the events?

Most people will say a distance event, or height, like the sheaf toss. But mine is definitely the caber, the telephone pole thing you hoist and then pull so the large end hits the ground and the smaller flips over; you try to get it as close to 12 o'clock as you can; 12 o'clock is the perfect score. I threw caber in seven games last year and two this year and I turned it—though not a perfect throw—in all but my first two. For myself, that's a wonderful record. I also take pride that I haven't dropped the caber in seven games.

How much does a caber weigh?

The general breakdown is the longer the caber, the skinnier and lighter it is. It's really long wood, 16-23 feet. The heaviest is in Braemar, Scotland, and it's 120 pounds. The one I'm bringing with me to Dandridge is roughly 100 pounds.

Are you generically Scots-Irish, or part of a particular clan?

I get my Irish heritage from my father's family, my Scots from my mother's. I tend to lean more towards my Scottish heritage. We are Clan Cameron, one of the Highland clans in Western Scotland. They still hold territory there. They're not widely known, but they are affiliated under the British crown and there was a regiment of the Queen's Own "Cameron Highlanders."

Do you eat haggis?

Yes, yes, I do and I will, all the time. Scotch eggs are another favorite—hard boiled eggs inside fried sausage.

So... what do you wear under that kilt?

That's probably going to be one of the greatest Highland secrets of all time; I'm not at liberty to say. I will say this: Highland athletes that compete are required to wear some sort of gym shorts. Kilts do fly up quite a bit during competition.

For more information about the Dandridge Scots-Irish Music Festival: Scots-Irish.org