Highland Games highlight of Pikes Peak Celtic Festival
A Celtic festival wouldn't be complete without watching a burly guy in a kilt gather a jumbo tapered pole, stagger a few yards and toss it end over end.
The 5th annual Pikes Peak Celtic Festival won't let you down - the aforementioned caber toss and eight other events are all part of the Highland Games Friday through Sunday at Memorial Park. The games run all day Saturday and Sunday.
"Different groups will be throwing in each of six venues at a time," said Mark Buchanan, the festival's athletic director and president of the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes. "There will almost always be somebody throwing."
About 60 men and women from around the country wearing the de rigueur plaid kilts will hurl heavy stones, balls, shots, hammers and weights straight up and straight out. They'll grunt, yell and twirl their bodies to get as much momentum as they can to heave a 56-pound weight as far as possible.
How strenuous are these games? "There's certainly strength to this," said Buchanan, who started competing in the games in 1998 and took home first place in the men's master division of the Highland Games in Loveland earlier this month. "You have to be in pretty good shape."
A stalwart adversary, he's bowing out of the competition this year to preserve his strength for next weekend's Scottish Masters Athletics Heavy Events World Championships in Iceland.
"It's just fun," he said. "There's a real camaraderie. This is what I always say about men: Anybody who'll put on a skirt and throw a pole will develop a certain type of camaraderie with everybody else. If you do poorly in one event, you can move on to the next one and do better. And there's a little bit of scotch drinking at the end. That's part of the culture."
The event, formerly called the Pikes Peak Highland Games, was disbanded after its last hurrah in 1999 and brought back to life in 2013 by Joseph Poch, whose grandparents helped organize the original. The city was looking for an event to attract more folks to town during the summer, and the Celtic Festival fit the bill. With bagpipe bands coming from around the country to perform in the pipe-and-drum competition, Highland Games athletes and Celtic dancers, thousands of family members and fans flock to the park.
About 12,000 attended last year's festivities. This year's roster includes a performance by Scottish band Albannach, food and drinks and a kilted Braveheart 5K Run, clan torch-lighting ceremony and fireworks on Saturday.
"It's very family friendly," Poch said. "It's the perfect festival for summertime. You can come and hang out and listen to great bands. You don't see 150 bagpipers combined with a brass band every day."
4 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday and Sunday, Memorial Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., $15-$20 single day, $5-$10 kids 5-17 single day, $25-$30 weekend pass, $15-$20 kids 5-17 weekend pass; pikespeakcelticfestival.com