The British redcoats aimed their muskets at the Scottish border clan and slowly advanced on the rebels, firing volley after volley. Finally, the Scots pulled out their swords and rushed the British soldiers.

"A Highlander charge," said the announcer at the Scottish Games and Festival in Alexandria, "and guess who's going to win."

But the reenactment didn't end when all the redcoats fell to the ground. Scottish bandits jumped from the stands to loot the dead bodies. Only then did the crowd erupt in applause and laughter.

Stiflingly hot weather and a severe thunderstorm didn't stop an estimated 10,000 people from attending the annual festival that celebrates the city's Scottish heritage. They clapped to Highland dancers, cheered on the bagpipe, harp and fiddle competitors and tasted traditional Scottish cuisine, from shortbread and scones to haggis, a dish made of oats and sheep innards.

"The weather is not a factor for Scots," said an event organizer whose full name, he insisted, is David Stewart McGregor McKenzie. He said the crowds were slightly smaller than expected only because of a lower turnout among non-Celts. The festival and athletic competition continue today at Episcopal High School.

At noon yesterday, lightning struck within a mile of the site, canceling the opening ceremonies and forcing many visitors into a field house. But athletes, decked out in traditional kilts and knee socks, continued to participate in the strength competitions on the program.

A lightning bolt pierced the sky just as one of the competitors swung a 28-pound metal weight over his shoulder.

"These games are as important to the Scots as St. Patrick's Day is to the Irish," said McKenzie, 55. "We're an ethnic group that's not as finely delineated as others, like the Italians or Germans. The only thing we have in common is we all hate the English."

"And the Campbells," added Libby Holman, 23, another organizer.

The Campbells, one of 62 Scottish clans that set up tents at the event, sided with the English during the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Campbell tent yesterday was near the woods, while the other tents were in an open field. An organizer smiled as she insisted that the placement was not intentional.

The showcase of the games was the Highland throwing competitions. Competitors heaved smooth river stones, wooden poles, metal weights and canvas bags as far, or as high, as they could.

The throwing contests, though largely unknown to the average sports fan, are held regularly at hundreds of similar festivals around the world.

The favorite in the 10-event competition in Alexandria is Karl Dodge, 29, of Greeley, Colo. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Dodge is ranked No. 3 in the world.

Dodge, an ergonomics engineer at Hewlett-Packard Co., calls his arms "levers." He has been competing in such events for eight years and estimates that he makes $15,000 a year in prize money.

Wearing the green and blue kilt of the Melville clan to which he traces his ancestry, he threw the so-called hammer, a 22-pound metal ball attached to a broomstick, more than a third the length of a football field and took second place in that event.

Nearby, Bryan McClain, 37, of Vienna, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound competitor in the amateur division, tried to launch the hammer, but it slipped, sliding across the grass. He decided to spray more adhesive on his hands.

The Alexandria event is one of more than 100 major Scottish games and festivals thrown every summer across the United States. They are especially common in the South, where the Scots first settled in the late 17th century.

"The games keep me sane," said McKenzie, a Metro transit police officer and the son of one of the founders of the Alexandria festival, now in its 26th year. "It lets you get out and talk to your own kind of people."