Ancient athletics will be a highlight of Saline Celtic Festival

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Tara Chippewa from Romulus, a participant in Ancient Athletics at the July 9 Saline Celtic Festival, particularly enjoys the caber toss.

“It’s challenging, it looks insane and there’s nothing else like it—I love getting to say I got to throw trees today!”

Chippewa, who will wear her family’s tartan, only got into Ancient Athletics a few weeks ago but has been strength training and throwing shot put since 2020. She got interested in Ancient Athletics after watching Highland Games at various festivals.

Eric Spence from Bay City, ranked #11 in the United States last year, has been throwing for seven years.

“I really enjoy throwing heavy things and I love the people involved,” he says. “My favorite events are sheaf and caber because they’re completely unique to the Highland Games.”

These two are among several amateur athletes who will take part in Ancient Athletics at the Saline Celtic Festival, Saturday, July 9 at Mill Pond Park.

Classes include

  • Men’s amateur Class
  • Men’s Master Class - Ages 40+
  • Men’s Master Class - Ages 50+
  • Junior Class - Age 13-17
  • First Time Thrower Class
  • Women’s Amateur Class
  • Women’s Master Class - Age 40+
  • Men’s Lightweight Class - Men under 200#

Amateur athletes don’t have to be of Scottish descent to compete. “Anyone of any race or religion can compete to celebrate and continue the Celtic tradition of the Highland Games,” says organizer Merl Lawless. “We encourage anyone to sign up and give it a go. Only rule we have is you have to wear a kilt!”

The festival will host these events:

Braemar Stone - 22# for men and 12# for women, thrown without forward movement. After 3 tries, the athlete with the furthest toss is the winner

Open Stone - 16# for men and 8# for women, tossed by forward movement by spinning or gliding. After 3 tries, the athlete with the furthest toss is the winner

Heavy Weight for Distance - 56# for men and 28# for women, on a chain is thrown with one hand for distance. After 3 tries, the athlete with the furthest toss is the winner.

Light Weight for Distance - 28# for men and 14# for women, on a chain thrown with one hand for distance. After 3 tries, the athlete with the furthest toss is the winner. The stronger athletes can throw this weight around 85 feet!

Weight Over Bar - 56# for men and 28# for women, with a ring on it, and thrown one-handed over a bar. Each time the athlete makes it over the bar, the bar is raised until only one athlete is left.

Sheaf Toss - 20# for men and 10# for women. This is a burlap shack (resembling a hay bale) tossed with a pitch over a bar for height. Each time the athlete makes it over the bar, the bar is raised until only one athlete is left. Stronger athletes can toss the sheaf over 30 feet!

Caber Toss – Considered the signature event of the Heavy Events. The caber is generally a log measuring 16-20 feet long and weighing approximately 100-150 lbs. The goal is to flip the caber to land at a 12 o’clock position while the athlete stands at a 6 o’clock position.

The athlete with the highest combined score from all the events is the winner.

“You’ll see athletes from all across the Midwest at this festival—athletes from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin take part in this awesome venue,” Lawless says. “Saline has always been popular with the athlete’s families. There’s tons of stuff to keep the kids busy and things to look at and enjoy. Some athletes make this event their family vacation.”

Festival Facts

When: Saturday, July 9

Where: Mill Pond Park

Hours: Gates open at 10 a.m.; opening ceremony 11 a.m.; Festival runs through midnight.

Events: music from The Moxie Strings, Crossbow, Brother Crowe, Nessa, and Saline Fiddlers; Highland dance competition, pipe & drums bands, living history, music and dance performances, ancient athletics, free music/dance workshops, Wee Folks Island, jousting, sheep herding, clans, textile demonstrations, living history performances, Ring of Steel Fire Show, beer tent, food vendors, merchants area—and Millie the Mill Pond Monster and her family.

Tickets: Adults $15/advance; $18 at the gate; ages 65+ $8/advance; $10/at the gate; ages 6-17 $5; age 5 and under free; active military free.

Group package (10 adult admissions) $125/advance; Family pack (2 adults & 2 youth) $40/advance; Two adults & two beers $30/advance ($20 savings); Four adults & four beers $70/advance ($30 savings)

Free parking and shuttles: Saline Middle School, 7190 N. Maple Rd., and Liberty School, 7265 N. Ann Arbor St.

For more information and advance tickets, visit https://www.salineceltic.org.

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