Tom Carmichael of Knoxville, Tenn., wears a red and green kilt, which, for the uninitiated, looks something very much like a woman's skirt.

If you think that's funny and want to joke about it -- go ahead.

You wouldn't be the first, said Carmichael, pointing to two scars on the left side of his face.

Of course, those scars came from discussions Carmichael had with people about his kilt when he was a small boy and his father, a second-generation Scot, made him wear his kilt to church.

Jokesters should be advised that today Carmichael is 36 years old, stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, and weighs just under 300 pounds.

Carmichael is a man who can throw a 56-pound stone more than 70 feet and toss a caber -- a 140-pound, 20-foot-long log -- causing it to somersault in midair.

These feats, among others, have ranked Carmichael third nationally among professional Scottish Highland gamesmen.

Carmichael is one of the competitors at the 12th annual Virginia Scottish Games, which opened yesterday and continue today at the Episcopal High School in Alexandria.

Several thousand people are expected to attend the events, many of them joining Carmichael in full Scottish regalia. Other highlights of the games include Scottish bagpipe and dancing competitions and a Scottish dog exhibition.

In Scotland, highland games are the equivalent of a county fair, said Alan MacDougall, president of the Virginia Scottish Games Association, sponsor of the weekend's festival.

The individual contests in highland games, such as the caber toss and the hammer throw, have their origins in Scottish agriculture, MacDougall said.

Alexandria's games are among the largest in the Western Hemishpere, drawing participants and spectators from throughout the United States and Canada, according to MacDougall.

MacDougall noted that Alexandria is a logical location for a celebration of Scottish heritage: The city was founded by Scots in the 1740s and still has a large population of Scottish descendants.

The games are like an "enormous family reunion with 60 families," MacDougall said. Nearly 60 Scottish clan associations had booths at the event, with displays celebrating their heritage, ready to sign up any members who could trace their ancestry to one of the clans.

Although Scots tend to be less visible than other ethnic groups, their pride is as fierce as any, said James Harrison Monroe, chairman of the Clan Munro Association.

"We're not boastful unless you press us. Then we'll tell you how we invented everything . . . . Come to think of it, we've been first at most everthing," said Monroe, listing the telephone, televison, radar and several other inventions credited to Scots.

Given a choice, however, most Scots will prefer to keep a low profile: "Not only are we thrifty but we're modest. We don't believe in blowing our own horn," said Senga M.M. Reid, a native of Scotland who lives in McLean