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Highland Games to celebrate Celtic culture at Cedar Glades Park

by Bryan Rice | May 24, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
Anthony Walsh performs an open stone (shotput) at the 2022 Highland Games at Cedar Glades Park. The Highlands Games, which will be held Saturday, celebrate Celtic culture. - Submitted photo

The Ouachita Highland Games return to Cedar Glades Park on Saturday, celebrating Celtic culture with events that are growing in popularity across the country.

"The Highland Games are a centuries-old sport coming out of Scotland," said Stacy Green, the athletic director for the games. "We are still doing the same things that those guys did hundreds of years ago. The same events, it is worldwide at this point. It is very popular in the United States."

This is the third year for the Highland Games in Hot Springs.

"I moved here from Texas three years ago. I wanted to kind of get it going in Hot Springs. I had some contacts in Little Rock, called the Arkansas Highlanders. We have all made a real good push the last couple of years to spread the word and get more people involved," Green said.

"We have got a lot of new people since we started the first games here. They are regulars now that travel to the games."

The Highland Games highlight tremendous feats of strength through a total of nine events with nine classifications.

"There are two stones. We have a heavy called a Braemar stone and then an open stone, which is like throwing the shot put in the Olympics. We have two Scottish hammers; the Scottish hammers are on a handle or long stick. We have a heavy hammer and a light hammer," Green said.

"We have weights for distance. Those are going to be a weight -- it could be square or round -- but it is on a chain with a handle on it. You spin around a couple of times and throw the weights for distance. Then we have what most people are familiar with the Caber toss. That is the one where we are flipping an actual tree trunk end-over-end."

Athletes will do all the events and once one class completes an event they will move on to the next station.

"We have two height events," Green said. "We have a weight over bar, which you are throwing 56-pound weight over a bar for the heavy guys and then the bar just keeps going up as you make each height.

"We have one called a sheaf toss, and it is a crowd-pleaser, too. You use a pitchfork and you throw a bag called a sheaf bag, which is like a little hay bale. You throw it up for height over a bar as well."

There are three women's classifications, lightweight women, open women and masters' women, for 40 and older.

"We have more classes for men because there are more men that participate," Green said. "If they are amateurs, they are ranked in A, B, or C according to their level. Brand-new athletes we put them in C class and as they improve they can move to B class and onto the A class. We have masters aged 40-49, masters 50-up and then we have lightweights."

Eighty participants have signed up to show off their brawn Saturday.

"They will be coming from several states, of course, a ton from Arkansas," Green said.

"They had to preregister because we have the rosters, score sheets and all of that stuff made up and ready to go. I try to cap the classes here at 10 athletes per class to keep it manageable."

"At any time during the day people can come out to Cedar Glades and they can see all of the events going on at the same time," Green said. "They do not have to get there at 9 a.m., if they get there at 1 p.m. they can still see everything going on."

Local microbreweries Stud Duck from Lonsdale and Slate Rock Brewery from Amity will be in attendance.

"We will have three or four different food trucks," Green said. "We will have some vendors; one guy is a blacksmith. We will have skill demo vendors and regular retail and craft vendors going."

Admission is $5 for spectators.

"It is an all-day event ending at 4-5 p.m. We will do the awards after that. Some events hand out trophies; I like to do medieval weapons. First place gets a big mace, second place gets a ball and chain mace, and third place a Scottish dirk knife. It is something different," Green said.

"We do have regular practices here in Hot Springs at Cedar Glades," Green said. "We do it every weekend. We welcome new people to come check it out. It is a really laid-back sport. Everyone is willing to help everyone else. Most of the local athletes that tried it their first year here are still doing it. It turned out to be a lot of fun."

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