Staff Photo: John Bohn The Stone Mountain Highland Games are held at Stone Mountain Park Saturday.
STONE MOUNTAIN -- When it comes to heritage, Joshua Pamplin is lordly. He claims he'd strut into seventh grade donning his kilt if it weren't for pesky dress codes.
"I'd wear it to school," said the Auburn-haired Tennessean, chest slightly puffed, kilt quite yellow.
That sentiment -- that pride -- echoes this weekend in the shadow of Stone Mountain, along with the ubiquitous cry of bagpipes and the thud of large, thrown objects on grass.
A quick gander at the Stone Mountain Highland Games, a paean to all things Scottish, and one realizes it's more substantive than strapping on kilts, tossing telephone-pole-like cabers and swilling amber beer. Though that's all certainly included.
The 39th incarnation of the festival is expected to bring crowds of 15,000, ranking it among the best-attended Scottish gatherings this side of the motherland (fests outside San Francisco and high in North Carolina draw more, leaders say). Attendees poured in Saturday from around the globe, shelling $17 for an adult ticket.
The popularity speaks to the deep roots of Scots and Scots-Irish in metro Atlanta and Georgia, said Richard Swanson, the festival's president for nearly three decades.
"All you have to do is look at the names of rivers coming up from Savannah" for ancestral evidence, Swanson said.
The Games meld famous strongman-style competitions, or "heavy athletics," with a festive ode to cultural roots.
Beefy athletes in the professional category chucked sheafs, hammers, cabers and huge weights to crowd applause Saturday. Beneath a towering hardwood canopy, the Games' more personal aspects shone through, where clusters of "clans" hobnobbed, a Harp Camp hummed and a disproportionate number of red-haired kids danced.
Roswell resident Deborah Bruce Gottlieb, an attendee since 1982, represented the Family of Robert the Bruce, king of the Scots more than 700 years ago. Her father emigrated from Scotland to Massachusetts, brought by the promise of prosperity.
"More cultures should have this," she said of the festival.
Several attendees praised the time-tested location, calling it convenient and vaguely Scotland-esque.
"The serenity, the field, the forest, the mountain -- it's perfect," said Swanson, the president. "I haven't missed one."