If you aren't Scottish enough for the Portland Highland Games
, perhaps you're plenty Neanderthal for the third annual Neander Games and Stone Worker's Picnic. This Saturday, Rocky Butte Park will take a joyride in a time machine—landing somewhere circa 60,000 BC—for this so-called "Caveman Olympics." Any stone worker may participate as a team of two in the six events, ranging from the rampart toss ("a select stone thrown for measured distance") to the rockshaw ("a drilled stone with pry bar through center carried by two team members uphill") to the stone smash ("each team member smashes stones"). All in the perfectly matched, stone-walled vista that is Rocky Butte. From the website
Behold Supreme Deeds of Visceral Mastery!
Thrill in Mega Feats of Stone Throwing, Heaving, Stacking, Rolling and Smashing Virtuosity!
The Games is first and foremost an arena for stone workers to strut their stuff. Founder Shawn Kelley and his friend Matt, another stonemason, "were sitting around having a laugh, thinking, 'Man, we could totally make a sport out of what we do for a living.'" The Games' events are directly inspired by day-to-day stone work, finessed via "basic cave man principles mixed with practicality," as Kelley explains it. Originally conceived as an event to be held in someone's work yard, the men went for it and approached Portland's Bureau of Parks and Recreation, which granted them the fortuitous use of Rocky Butte Park.
The Neander Games consistently pulls in about 200 spectators a year, and what may sound like a whimsical romp through primitive role-playing has lent a lot of visibility to the city's caste of stone workers. "It's about networking for stonemasons," Kelley said. "We've built trade solidarity through getting to know who these guys are and what they do. We're also trying to put ourselves in the public limelight, showing the basic spirit behind us and our trade."
This basic spirit is one of inclusiveness and sport, family and friends (the Games is an assuredly family-friendly event), good banter and beer ("Bring your own beverage" + "(Alcohol permitted)" = BYOB), big muscles and bigger stones. Come out, support your local stone workers, and "nourish paleolithic undercurrents" already!
The Neander Games takes place Saturday, July 18 from 9 am-4 pm at Rocky Butte Park. Free. All ages. Call 807-7338 to volunteer (perks included). Photos courtesy Shawn Kelley.