FRANKFORT — The Great American Irish Festival is bringing back the state Highland Games Championship to this year’s Great American Irish Festival, to be held at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds July 26-28.
Chuck Livingston, competitor and host of these games via the Buffalo Heavies, reported, “We have many outstanding athletes performing this tear as in last year’s tremendous success. Returning are all top 10 world championship competitors.” Those Top 10 are:
Tim Mullaly, one of the top masters athletes in the country returning from the US nationals No. 6. Courtney McGuire, No. 2 in the world and No. 2 at this year’s nationals. Chris Sickler, placed in the Top 10 at this year’s lightweight nationals. Kathryn Kendall, No. 4 in the world and No. 3 at the nationals this year. John Jans, No. 2 at U.S. nationals. Jen Taylor, U.S. champion. Terri James, multiple-time world champion and holder of at least nine world records. Mike Watson, No. 8 in the U.S., qualified for world championships. Paul Helfinstein, No. 10 in the U.S. Chuck Livingston, nine-time word competitor — holds Senior Masters World Sheaf record, is No. 6 in world and placed sixth at U.S. championships in May this year.
There will be nine events in two days. In addition, there will a traditional Celtic hand fasting wedding ceremony. Chuck Livingston, competitor and host of the games, will marry Davina Roos at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Games include a crowd favorite, the 175-pound caber toss, in which athletes compete to flip a 19-foot log end over end. Audience members are encouraged to come cheer on six classes of athletes: Open Men, Open Women, Masters Men, Masters Women, Senior Masters and Light Weights. Competitions will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Caber Toss is a traditional Celtic athletic event in which competitors toss a large, tapered pole called a ‘caber.’ The pole ranges in length from 16-22 feet and in weight from 70-180 pounds. The primary objective is to toss the caber so that it turns end over end, falling away from the tosser. Ideally, it should call directly away from the toss in the 12 o’clock position. The distance thrown is unimportant.
The sheaf toss is a traditional Celtic agricultural sport event originally contested at county fairs. A pitchfork is used to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar above the competitor’s head.
Typical weight for the bag is 10 pounds for women and 20 pounds for men. Three chances are given to each competitor to cleanly go over the bar, without touching it. After all challengers have made their attempts, the bar is raised and all successful competitors move on to the new height. This continues until all but one athlete is eliminated.
The stone put is similar to the modern-day shot put using a large stone. There are two versions of the stone toss events, differing in allowable technique. The “Braemar Stone” uses a 20-26 pound stone for men (13-18 pounds for women) and does not allow any run up to the toeboard, it is a standing put. In the “Open Stone” using a 16-22 pound stone for men (or 8-12 pound for women), the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release.
The weight throw, is a traditional Celtic athletic event. There are actually two separate events, one using a light weight of 28 pounds for men and 14 pounds for women and the other using a heavy weight of 56 pounds for men and 28 pounds for women. Competitors will attempt to heave the stones as far as they can using any technique they choose. Three chances are given to each competitor. The longest throw wins.
Weight over the bar
Weight over the bar is also known as weight for height. The athletes attempt to toss a 56-pound weight with an attached handle over a horizontal bar using only one hand. Each athlete is allowed three attempts at each height. Successful clearance of the height allows the athlete to advance into the next round at a greater height. The competition is determined by the highest successful toss with fewest misses being used to break tie scores,
Scottish Hammer Throw
In the Scottish Hammer Throw, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 pounds for men or 12 or 16 pounds for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4-feet in length and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. With the feet in a fixed position, the hammer is whirled about one’s head and thrown for distance over the shoulder.
Hammer throwers sometimes employ specially designed footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf to maintain their balance and resist the centrifugal forces of the implement as it is whirled about the head. This substantially increases the distance attainable in the throw.