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Hancock hosts Highland Games

August 31, 2011
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - For the first time in the area, the Celtic Quarter of the Copper Country will be hosting its own festival to bring to life Celtic heritage and traditions.

The Celtic Quarter presents the Celtic Festival Friday and Saturday at the Houghton County Fairgrounds in Hancock featuring the Highland Games and entertainment for the whole family. The first time the Highland Games were held in the area was at Heritage Days in Calumet in August 2010, said Val Juntunen, a member of the Celtic Quarter.

"It was well received so we decided to do our own festival this year," she said.

Article Photos

Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Men in kilts walk through downtown Calumet during last year’s Heritage Festival, which featured the Celtic culture. The Celtic Quarter of the Copper Country will host the Highland Games later this week at the Houghton County Fairgrounds.

The Celtic Festival will commence with opening ceremonies at 4 p.m. Friday where there will be a presentation of American and Celtic flags accompanied by bagpipe music and Highland dancing. At the same time, vendor booths open, showcasing arts and crafts and offering food for festival goers.

At 4:15 p.m., the men's and women's amateur games will take place. Local athletes will complete in Highland Games competitions including the hammer toss, stone put, distance weights, distance height, sheaf (burlap sack) toss and caber (a large tapered pole) toss, Juntunen said.

"These are all local people who have signed up to participate," she said.

At 7 p.m., the Ceilidh, pronounced kay-lee, will be held at the fairgrounds. A traditional Gaelic social gathering which originated in Ireland, the Ceilidh welcomes people to enjoy Gaelic folk music and dancing, Juntunen said.

"We celebrate the Ceilidh with athletes and an open mic night," she said.

Juntunen encouraged bringing snacks and drinks to the event. The Ceilidh will feature local artists including Courtney Clisch and Oren Tikkanen, among others.

Saturday, vendors open and a rugby tournament with the Michigan Technological University team will be held at 9 a.m.

At 11 a.m., the Highland Games will begin, in which professional athletes will show off their talents in the hammer toss, stone put, distance weights, distance height, sheaf toss and caber toss. At noon, the Highland Dance Competition, a highly competitive and technical dance form, will be held.

Throughout the afternoon, kids games will open where kids are welcome to learn how to throw a cardboard caber.

"There's a coloring contest, too," Juntunen said.

At 3 p.m., there will be a Highland Dance workshop where eventgoers will be able to learn some of the basics of the Highland Dance and at 5 p.m., awards for the games and dance begin.

Other events include the Haggis eating contest, shortbread bake-off, Celtic Quarter mock jail and a variety of children's events, such as bouncy houses and opportunities to see Highland cattle, Shetland ponies, sheep and other animals.

Tickets for the general public are $5 for one day or $7.50 for both days. Kids 12 years and younger are free.

The Celtic Quarter is a private, nonprofit group currently renovating a building in Hancock to create a Celtic heritage center. With the festival, the group hopes to raise money for the renovation of the building, now known as the Celtic House and formerly known as the old Pewabic House.

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