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Brutes of the Butte

Neander Games take over Rocky Butte


The third annual Neander Games stone celebration was held last month in Joseph Wood Hill Park at the top of Rocky Butte - one of three extinct volcanoes in east Portland. Stonemasons by day, Neander Games co-creators, in the foreground from left, Shawn “F'tung Pah!” Kelley and Matt “Morg” Goddard give the invocation before the fun starts.
Neander Games co-creator Matt “ Morg” Goddard competes in the Wheelbarrow Relay event. Get your stone faces ready - Morg and F'tung Pah! have begun planning Neander Games 2010. As much as Neanders can plan, that is.
The team Mad Monkeys, eventual Neander Games 2009 champions, compete in the Speedstack event: 87” stack in two minutes.
Valley Boys teammates Paul Johnson and Mike Hasbargen finish the Rockshaw event in a winning time of 14.09 seconds. They finished second overall in the 2009 Neander Games.
The Stonethrow event led off the 2009 Neander Games. A Mad Monkeys team member makes his throw.
Jeremy DaMetz, left, and Jon Phelps of team Bouncing Balls representing Smith Rock, Inc. - 2008 Neander Games champions - compete in this year's Boulder Roll event. Bouncing Balls' dream of repeating was crushed like the stones in the Stone Smash event.
Accompanied by discordant horns, lilting bagpipes, clanging garbage can lids, drums, incense, fire and mud - acknowledging their connection to the earth and paying homage to those who had gone before - a group of current day stonemasons, stonecutters and quarry owners ascended to the top of an extinct volcano during the opening procession of the third annual Neander Games. Held last month in Joseph Wood Hill Park at the top of Rocky Butte, the event showcases stoneworkers who, in their everyday lives, design, craft, and build walls, patios, water features, steps and fireplaces. Crafting, carving, sculpting, and quarrying stone is their profession and they treat stone with reverence. Recently, these intrepid folks took a Saturday off to vie for the title of “Brute of the Butte.”

Founded by friends and stonemasons Shawn “F'tung Pah!” Kelley and Matt “Morg” Goddard, the Neander Games and Stone Workers Picnic might be described as a stone Olympics with a whimsical tongue planted firmly in the cheek. Organizers encourage costumes, makeup and anything that “nourishes Paleolithic undercurrents.”

“We're a fairly earthy demographic,” Goddard said. “We're in touch with the natural elements daily. I think we're fairly down-to-earth people. That's why you see the mud and fur - we're all connected - as opposed to someone who works in an office.”

On a more serious note, Goddard said, “This is about (the) preservation of stonecraft and honoring traditions. It's also about honoring ancient builders of natural stone. Today is a gathering of craftsmen from around the region that could be here to network and interact.” Goddard owns Poetry In Stone, and Kelley owns Kell Stone Masonry.

Kelley said the idea for the Neander Games evolved after work over beers at the stone quarry. “Goddard used to say, 'We could have a competition here (at their work yard), get a few masons together, drink some beer and throw some big rocks around.'” It took off from there. “Matt got it in his head he wanted to go big with it.” After Goddard got serious, obtained the necessary permits and permission for using Rocky Butte, the natural stone site in east Portland, they sat down and planned the different events. “We had a bigger showing than in the past. This year was incredibly well organized. We have a great group of volunteers. They're hard workers, and they know what they're doing.”

Nine two-man teams - comprised of those who work in a field or profession related to the use of stone - competed in six events throughout the day. These included the Rampart Toss (a selected stone is thrown for measured distance); Rockshaw (teams carry a 285 lb. stone uphill, with a pry bar through a drilled center hole); Speedstack (teams stack stone for maximum height); the Wheelbarrow Relay (racing from station to station, teams load and unload stones into wheelbarrows); Boulder Roll (teams roll a selected stone for time); and last, but certainly not least - the people's favorite - Stone Smash (each team member, on the run, smashes stones for time).

The Mad Monkeys team, brothers Rylan and Brian Phillips, won the 2009 Neander Games; second place went to the Valley Boys, Paul Johnson and Mike Hasbargen; the Mexitalians, John DiBona and Manuel “Me-me” Rincon, placed third.

Joseph Wood Hill Park is perched atop Rocky Butte in Northeast Portland. Local masons and craftsmen constructed the fortress viewpoint as a Works Progress Administration project from 1934 to1939. The stonework is similar to the work on the old Columbia River Highway east of Portland and was build from basalt quarried from the butte itself.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rocky Butte attracts recreationists and wildlife and offers a panoramic view of the area. The Rocky Butte Preservation Society was established in 1985 to preserve the views, acquire additional greenspace, and oversee development and tree cutting, and is responsible for historic preservation, recognition and documentation. To learn more or to get involved, call 503-281-4178.

To view photos and videos of the event, and for more information about the Neander Games, visit the Web site: However, we must warn you that after viewing the videos, you too may find yourself whipped into frenzy with an irresistible urge to smash a few stones, Neanderthal style.
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