Darienite wins dash at Highland Games
Their faces lit up, especially the younger children's, when Laurie Finkel handed out the medals to the boys, girls, men and women participating in the Round Hill Highland Games.
"It's pretty exciting to give a child a trophy," Finkel, a Stamford resident, said while under the main tent at the mansion at Cranbury Park.
A Department of Social Services worker, Finkel was volunteering for the first time after coming to watch them with her family for years. Her husband Lewis also volunteered, even though it was his 66th birthday. The pair said they were asked and they believe in helping out.
While her husband was off photographing the event, Laurie Finkel handed out awards to runners, cloggers, sack racers and stone putters and still had the awards for piping, caber tossing and tug of war to give out.
"All ages, all sizes and all shapes," she said of the people who eagerly collected their winnings. "I get to say congratulations."
Each year for the last 90, the Round Hill Highland Games have been held to celebrate the land of Alba. They typically attract more than 3,000 people from all over the country, and of course from across the sea. There were plenty of expatriated Scots in attendance still sporting Scottish brogues on Saturday.
Called games, the event features serious competitions for pipers, dancers, runners and athletes participating in the traditional sports of caber tossing, the stone put and weight over the bar. The caber toss requires contestants to balance large logs in their hands and toss them for distance. The stone and weight competitions pretty much are what they sound like, tossing heavy objects.
But the Highland Games are also about family and fun, a turn the event began to take about a decade ago, according to Margo Mattice, a Trumbull resident and president of the Round Hill Highland Games Association. This is her first year heading up the games she's volunteered at for the last 15.
"It's a big family day," she said, as hundreds of people, many clad in tartan kilts, strolled the park watching the events or buying ice cream.
Ice cream was a big seller this year.
Mattice knows how important the events for children are, having run them for the last 10 years.
And the fact that it is a big family day appears to be paying off for the group, which saw attendance increase this year, though exact figures were not available last Saturday. Mattice noted they had to use both the backup lots this year for overflow parking, while last year, they only had to open up one.
Back at the tent with Finkel, people came in to collect their awards, drop off lost items or pay fees.
Darien resident Mickey Conroy, 17, won the 440-yard dash, beating four others.
"This is a lot harder to run on," he said of the grass track. He said this event actually requires you to use tactics, unlike at a high school meet where you sprint all out. "You have to pace yourself."
Another contestant found that out the hard way, jumping out to a big lead, only to be reeled in by the other runners on the second lap.
Riley took the award, a soft smile on her face as she looked at it. Then she flashed an even bigger smile at her dad.
"It's our second year here," Kristoffer Singleton said. "And we won the sack race."