Highland Games: Sports with a twist happen Saturday

Kilts, bagpipes, a fake halibut toss, vendors and face paint are a few highlights to look forward to at the 2014 Kachemak Bay Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festival on Saturday. 

A celebration of Celtic heritage, the games invite male and female athletes and event-goers to join the fun by participating in or cheering for the traditional Scottish competitions, browsing the various food and retail vendors or by volunteering. 

“It’s something between a Renaissance fair and athletic event,” said Renee Krause, director and treasurer of the games. “It has the festival atmosphere and then it has the serious athletic events going on which are the main focus.”

When Krause says “serious athletic events,” she’s taking about chucking a 45-pound fabric halibut as far as possible, a Homer twist on the traditional games. Another alternative game is the golf toss. Krause said because so many clubs were lost after being thrown too far, the event changed to the golf bag toss.

A more classic event is the “kilted mile,” where kilt-wearing participants race a mile.
A new addition at this year’s event is a face-painting station in one of the Karen Hornday Park pavilions.

Of course, no Celtic celebration is really a Celtic celebration without bagpipes.

Similar Celtic games were run in Homer in 2003 and 2004 by Robert Archibald and Dave Brann, but deflated due to “lack of interest and place to hold the games,” according to Krause. She took it upon herself to reignite the games and helped found the nonprofit Kachemak Bay Scottish Club, now the Kachemak Bay Celtic Club, in 2011. Since then the club has organized and executed the Highland Games, which are never without a little Homer flair.

The games are divided into different categories:

• Littles, for ages 4-11, have mock games similar to the adults plus additional events like an egg toss with a parent.

• Middles are for 12- to 17-year-olds;

• Bigs is open to 18-year-olds and older. Those new to the games who are in the adult competition are required to attend free training practices and instruction at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. Friday.

Krause said the biggest thing organizers need is for volunteers to help with responsibilities like facilitating parking, managing entrance security, writing scores for the “Littles” competition and trash cleanup. Individuals who volunteer two hours or more receive free entry to the event. 

Three judges from the Scottish American Athletic Association have been flown up from Idaho to officiate the games.

“They make the games run right,” said Archibald, games coordinator and president of Kachemak Bay Celtic Club. 

Archibald said it is important for athletes to have accountability to the guidelines enforced by the judges. According to Krause the ultimate goal of any dedicated athlete is to compete in the Highland Games in Glasgow, Scotland, in September. 

Homer participants looking to compete in larger competitions like Glasgow need to participate in games with a similar judging standard, like the Scottish American Athletic Association provides. 

Krause hopes that through increased interest and attention the festival will outgrow its current local venue and expand to the Ninilchik State Fairgrounds. More vendors and more events would be possible, such as dog herding, dancing competitions and bagpiper competitions.

A family-friendly Celtic after-party, known as a ceilidh, will start at 5 p.m. at the Homer Elks Lodge and will feature traditional food and music from Celtic Cats and other bands. There is a $15 entrance fee for adults; $8 for youth.

Last year the Kachemak Bay Celtic Club organized and participated in several celebrations, like St. Patrick’s Day and National Tartan Day, but Krause said this year the main focus of the club is the Highland Games.

Admission for youngsters 5 years of age and younger is free with a paid adult; $5 for 6- to 16-year-olds; $10 for adults and $25 for families. 

Registration for athletic events begins at 8 a.m. General admission opens at 9:30 a.m. and games begin at 10 a.m. Athletic events require participants to be dressed in kilts or a similar representation. All kids’ athletic events are free, adult athletic games are $30 and include a T-shirt.
For more information or to register visit www.kachemakbaycelticclub.com.

Shannon Reid is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.

2014 Kachemak Bay Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festival

When: Saturday 

8 a.m. registration for athletic events
9:30 a.m. general admission
10 a.m. athletic events start

Where: Karen Hornaday Park
Admission: $5 for ages 6-16, $10 for adults and $25 for families. Admission for ages 5 and younger is free with a paid adult.

Athletic registration: 

$30 adults, free for youth; all athletes must wear a kilt or similar representation. Online registration available a kachemakbaycelticclub.com.

Instructive practices for novice adult competitors: 

at Karen Hornaday Park, 6 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday