It's time to pull the kilt out of the closet because the Queen Mary is offering up a taste of Scotland this weekend. And like every year, there's plenty of entertainment and food on the menu.
It's the 27th annual ScotsFestival and International Highland Games, and that means there's going to be everything from sheep herding to highland dancing and bagpipe competitions paired with Scottish cuisine and whiskey tastings.
But the highlight of the event is the International Highland Games, where athletes compete in traditional Scottish athletics, vying for national titles.
New to the Queen this year is the North American Lightweight Women’s Championship, bringing some of the world's top lightweight women in the United States to compete in nine Scottish heavy events, including the caber toss, throwing the weight, hammer throw, putting the shot and the sheaf toss, where athletes toss a burlap sack filled with hay into the air.
Jarvina Routt, 2018's national champion in the women's lightweight competition, is preparing for another ScotsFest event, adding that she's excited to explore the competition as well as be a spectator herself.
"Winning the national championship in 2018 just topped it for me," she said. "But I still look forward to being back every year and see people that I haven't seen in so long or meet new athletes — it's always a good experience."
She's competing for her fifth year at the Queen Mary, where she previously participated in the women's lightweight class. Today, she's moved on and is competing in the Women's Elite class.
"I love competing here," she said. "I am from the area and I have family who live here, so they can come and see me and I can see them, and it feels like home."
After winning the North American Lightweight Women’s Championship in 2018, Routt said that she started training for Strong Man, a competition in which athletes prove their brute strength by lifting or tossing stones and other heavy farm objects to prove their strength.
To be able to compete in the lightweight competition, Routt had to keep her weight capped at 150 pounds, adding that that's not the easiest to maintain when you're 5 foot 9 inches and packing on more muscle to be a stronger Strong Man competitor.
"After training for Strong Man as well and gaining muscle, it was harder for me to stay in that weight category," she said. "So I decided to retire and carry on my Highland Games career as a Woman's Elite athlete."
Her Highland career has taken her to competitions around the world. As an athlete for most of her life, Routt said nothing compares to the competitions she takes part in now, especially as a woman.
"Just like the men are in the weight room and trying to hit big numbers, so are the women," she said. "We're getting our reps in and we're focused on the technique just like the men are.
"When you see us throw or set up a hammer toss or approach a caber, we have the same drive as men do," she said. "And it's known now that the women are putting on a show, standing out and showing up as a force across the board."
See all of the athletes compete at the Queen Mary ScotsFestival and International Highland Games at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, through Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Queen Mary.
Tickets start at $25 online ($30 at the door). VIP tickets start at $45 and include access to VIP only areas, as well as to the the Ceilidh event, a traditional gathering complete with folk music, drinks and games, happening at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday only at the Greyfriar's Pub.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to queenmary.com.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.