A record number of burly men in kilts will be taking part in today’s (Saturday) “games of strength” at the Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities. Lisa Lockheart, spokeswoman for the day-long event in Davenport, says the competitors will be tossing large stones, throwing hammers and pitching phone-pole-sized cabers.

Lockheart says 70 athletes from eight states are signed up to compete, more than twice the number in previous years. While many people come to watch the modern athletes take part in the challenging games of strength, Lockheart says some of the contests date back centuries. The caber toss reportedly has its roots in attacks on castles.

The sheaf toss originates in old times when farm workers tossed bags of wheat onto high shelves. In today’s version, competitors will spike 16-pound bags of beans with a pitchfork and toss them vertically over goalposts, reaching extreme heights. Lockheart says there are all sorts of other activities underway, besides athletics.

There’s a bagpiping and drumming competition, both solo and bands, with ten bands taking part from several states, and there’s a Highland Dance competition with a record 90 dancers signed up. There’s also arts and crafts, kids games, dog agility trials and a sheep herding demonstration.

The festival celebrates the entertainment and traditions of multiple Celtic cultures, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain) and the Isle of Man. The games are underway at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport. For more information, surf to “www.celtichighlandgames.org” or call 309-794-0449