Highland athletics allegedly date back to the eleventh century, when King Malcolm III of Scotland held a foot race to the top of Craig Choinnich in the Scottish Highlands, to find the fastest runner to be his royal messenger. Over the years, other tests of strength and speed were added, using items such as stones or logs. The first formally organized annual “Highland Games” dates back to around 1820.
Hardy athletes will continue this tradition by competing in tests of strength and endurance at this Saturday’s Saline Celtic Festival in Mill Pond Park. The games will get underway at noon.
Heavy Weight for Distance/Light Weight for Distance: The Light Weight is 28 lbs. for men and 14 lbs. for women; the Heavy Weight is 56 lbs. for men, 42 lbs. for masters men, and 28 lbs. for women. The metal weights, with a handle attached directly or by a chain, are thrown using one hand, usually with a spinning technique, and the longest throw wins.
Weight Over Bar: Athletes try to toss a 56 lbs. weight (with handle) with one hand, over a horizontal bar. Each athlete gets three attempts at each height; the successful ones advance to the next round with the bar at a greater height. The winner has the highest successful toss – with fewest misses used to break tie scores.
Sheaf Toss: a bundle of straw (sheaf) weighing 20 lbs. for the men, and10 lbs. for women, and wrapped in a burlap bag, is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar.
Caber Toss: a long tapered pine pole or log is stood upright and hoisted by the athlete who balances it vertically holding the smaller end, then runs forward attempting to toss it end-over-end with the larger end striking the ground first. The smaller end hits the ground in the 12 o’clock position relative to the direction of the run. Athletes are judged on how closely throws approximate the ideal 12 o’clock toss on an imaginary clock.
Braemar and Open Stone: In an event similar to the modern-day shot put, the Braemar Stone uses a stone weighing 20 to 26 lbs. for men, 13 to 18 lbs. for women, and does not allow a run up to the toeboard or “trig.” In the Open Stone, with a stone weighing 16 to 22 lbs. stone for men, and 8 to 12 lbs. for women, athletes can use any throwing style as long as the stone is put with one hand, with the stone cradled in the neck until release. Most athletes use a glide or spin technique.
Festivalgoers can get their own taste of ancient games by taking part in the “Haggis Hurl,” set for 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. and “Golf Chipping” at 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.
The gates open at 5 p.m. on Friday, $5 at the gate. The evening includes music from the Kreellers, Crossbow and The Codgers, as well as workshops, a limerick competition, ceili and contra dances, Mr. Pretty Legs in a Kilt competition, and a Ring of Steel Fire Show to round out the night.
The gates open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and the opening ceremony with massed pipe & drum bands is at 11, before activities get underway at noon.
Saturday's music lineup includes Brother Crowe, Crossbow, Thunderwüde, Black Murray, House of Hamill, Paddy’s Cure, The Barley Saints, Nessa, Saline Fiddlers, and Chelsea House Orchestra; as well as pipe bands, dance troupes, Highland dance competition, music and dance workshops, clans, sheep herding, Celtic Canines, ancient athletics, Wee Folks Island, textiles and weavers, Millie the Mill Pond Monster, and much more.
Tickets are $15 at the gate; $10 for ages 65 and up; $5 ages 12-17; active military and under 12, free.
Free parking is available at Saline Middle School, 7190 N Maple Rd, and Liberty School, 7265 N Ann Arbor St, and shuttle buses (many are wheelchair accessible) run regularly. On-site parking at Mill Pond Park is limited to organizers and vendors and shuttles.
The festival is allowing attendees to bring dogs, but please read instructions/restrictions under FAQs on the festival website.
For complete information and a schedule of events, visit www.salineceltic.org.