PALMER -- Professional athletes Larry Brock, Greg Bell and Ryan Stewart have a unique requirement for their game-day attire -- to show some leg.
Donning kilts and knee-high socks, Brock, Bell and Stewart were among the pros who competed in Saturday's Alaska Scottish Highland Games at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. Although they compete professionally, they say most Highland Games pros don't earn a living from the sport.
"It's a part-time job-slash-hobby," said Stewart, a fifth-year pro who competes in about 15 events a year.
The event host pays for airfare and lodging for invited professionals, and there is some prize money, but mainly it's an athletic outlet, said Bell, a former football player at Western Washington's now-defunct program.
"It fills a competitive drive," he said. "It gives you something to work toward instead of lifting for aesthetics."
Bell, a sales manager from Seattle, said he typically flies out on a Friday night for an event that starts Saturday morning. After a day of hurling heavy weights and trying to flip cabers, he heads home Sunday afternoon and it's back to work Monday -- unless the state he's visiting happens to have world-class fishing.
Brock, who played football and ran track at Appalachian State, turned pro in 2002 and has competed in seven countries and 30 states. At the height of his career, Brock was competing in nearly 40 events a year.
Saturday marked his ninth and final competition in Alaska -- Brock plans to retire this year.
"The best people in the Games are in Alaska," he said. "There ain't a better run game in the world."
Throughout his time on the circuit, Stewart has seen more athletes turn pro, new festivals begin and existing Games grow.
Alaska is no exception. The 33rd edition of the Highland Games moved to the fairgrounds this year after outgrowing its former venue in Eagle River. Last year, about 10,000 people filled Lions Park, requiring the move, Highland Games chair Chris Anderson said.
In two years, the annual Scottish festivities will see an influx of international competitors when Alaska hosts the 2016 world championships, Anderson said.
Participating in Highland Games requires a year-round regiment of throwing and weight lifting.
"When you're not competing, you're training," Bell said. "You have to put in hard work. If you're lazy, you can't do this and do it well."
Enduring eight field events isn't easy. Saturday's competition included two stone-throwing events, similar to shot put, and two hammer throws, also reminiscent of the track and field event.
There were two weight-throwing events, where athletes heaved metal weights via a chain-attached handle, and the fan-favorite caber toss, which tests balance and strength as athletes attempt to flip a tapered log end over end.
The was also a weight-for-height event, in which athletes try to toss a weight over a horizontal bar using just one hand.
Along with the professional division, there were eight amateur flights, six for men and two for women.
"There's really a class for everybody," Brock said. "If I wasn't professional, I may never retire."
Bell said the pros who gravitate toward the Highland Games are hard-working athletes who want to have fun.
"I can't think of a person I wouldn't get a beer with," he said.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By MIKE NESPER