By MAREE HAY
THE SIGN said “Extreme Spree Zone” – and it was. North Roe was inundated with cowboys, cowgirls, indians, squaws, wigwams and wagons last weekend with the annual invasion for the Big Bannock and its “wild west” theme.
Estimates suggest that around 1,200 to 1,500 people attended this year and enjoyed a glorious weekend of sunshine and events for all ages. The day began with the traditional baking of the bannock which was “buffalo” flavour to complement the theme. Cowboys and indians mixed the ingredients, in a busy North Roe hall, using plastic shovels. The bannock dough was then poured into a giant baking tray and baked outside in the purpose built oven.
Next it was time to kirn butter to be spread on the Big Buffalo Bannock and the “kirnathon”
took place between the Delting Jarl’s Squad and a team led by ex-Lochend man Joe Robertson. Although the contest was close, Little Chief Speaking Bull declared the Jarl’s Squad as winners. Outside the hall Gael’s “Lallie Coral” kept the bairns entertained with games, face-painting and sideshows.
The Bjorgs Railroad Company opened for the day and provided locomotive rides for bairns of all ages on the Bannock Express. Red(neck) Lowrie’s Steak House and the Gals from the North Roe Hall cooked up an impressive array of vittles.
Little Plum’s Firewater Shack ensured that people did not go thirsty in the heat of the blazin’ sun and Duncan and his GTL Disco provided a disc-spinning music marathon from afternoon until well after sun-down.
The Merry Tiller Grand Sprix took place next and a huge crowd gathered round the track to see if tiller veteran and star of last week’s A Sporting Chance, Andy Stephen, could till his way to victory.
In the first heat between Gary Spence, Andy and a camel, Gary was quick off the grid but a technical problem meant he overshot the first pit stop at Sherry Chicane and had to turn back.
This gave Andy the slipstream opportunity he had been waiting for and he took the lead. He ably dodged the volley of water cannons from the Islesburgh Fire Skeeters towards the end of the race to win the heat.
The next heat was between Raymond Fraser, Kenny Robertson and Ross Keith. Raymond was well in the lead after Sherry Chicane and after Kenny “wittered” (a tiller technical term) in the track boundary tyres, Ross moved into second place.
Despite a mishap on the final corner and the loss of a sock and shoe during the race, Raymond powered on to win the second heat.
The atmosphere for the final was electric. The race was neck and neck until a slight wittering of tillers after Sherry Chicane where Andy seized his chance and took the lead before the Stout Island pit stop. He quickly quaffed his bottle to remain in pole position and fulfil his ambition to race his way to victory.
The final competitive event of the day was the soe sprootin. Inspiration for this event was taken from fishermen at da craigs who used to chew up limpets (soe) in their mouths and spit (or sproot) them as far they could into the water to help attract fish.
Although the soe did not look particularly appetising, several competitors came forward. The ladies’ heat took place first followed by the men’s.
After this the first and second place winners from both heats went through to the final of the competition. Missy Mowat took first place in the ladies’ section and despite a fair bit of byokin, Carlene fae Whalsay won second place.
Whalsay was also represented in the men’s heat as Jimmy Tetley stepped up on the platform as the reigning soe sprootin champion. Despite his best efforts, he wasn’t on his usual form and David Brown and Overseas Russell, who also had several attacks of the byoks, went on to take first and second places respectively.
The final between David, Missy, Overseas Russell and Carlene was a nailbiting event and although Missy gave David a run for his money, after an official enquiry, David Brown took the title. A successful Saturday was rounded off with music in the hall from ZE2 and Fullsceillidh Spelemannslag.
Sundays’ events were more informal in the North Roe hall. Those folk that weren’t “hairse” after Saturday had a superb sing-a-long with local musicians. Simultaneously, the Bannock Boys were doing their best to extract every last penny from the audience as they sold off the tuck shop contents for “bargain” prices; Chuppa Chup lollies were changing hands for up to £10.
The Romantic Dancing contest took place next with guest judge and dancer extraordinaire, John Priest. Andy Stephen gave a first class demonstration of what was required from the dozen or so dancers called on the floor, and yours truly began to wish she’d stayed home when she was called upon to take part in the dancing.
After the judge had wittled down the competitors to three, the finalists had a break while The Bandit aka Arthur Grains treated the audience to a spot of line-dancing during an impromptu appearance. After the final of the Romantic Dancing, Harry Hay kicked off the afternoon auction and secured a top price of £75 for a (plastic) lobster. Ivor “Toad” Duncan took over proceedings and the auction raised over £1,000.
The Big Bannock Committee is still counting the money raised over the weekend and a final total will be announced at a later date. Funds raised this year will be split between CLAN 123, Cancer Research and local charities.
Mugs and the DVD will be available soon at Brae Garage, Brae Building Centre and Ollaberry Shop.
Much speculation has taken place as to whether this will be the last Big Bannock. Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen, but this writer will treasure the trophy topped with the pink suede cowboy boots she won in the Romantic Dancing competition!