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Hancock highlands

September 13, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - Stone throwing, hammer throwing and caber tossing aren't things one may associate with Hancock, but on Friday and Saturday the third annual Celtic Festival and Copper Hammer Highland Games will bring those things to the Hancock Driving Park at the Houghton County Fairgrounds.

The cost for the two days is $5, which Brian Bixley, Celtic Quarter executive board chairman and festival coordinator, said is a good bargain.

"You cannot get a better deal," he said.

The festival and games are presented by the Celtic Quarter, and Bixley said this is actually the second year the nonprofit organization, created to share and promote Celtic heritage in the Copper Country, is running the event. The first year it was organized by Main Street Calumet in Agassiz Park.

The event seems to be gaining popularity, Bixley said, with a large crowd last year.

"It turned out pretty good," he said. "We had a lot of people."

Although the games are on Saturday, Bixley said the festival starts 7 p.m. Friday in the 4-H building at the fairgrounds with a music and performance event called a ceilidh (kay-lee) featuring local musicians Oren Tikkanen, Sidney Butler, Courtney Clisch, Kelly Suvanto and Doug Bacon. The public will be allowed to take part, also.

The opening ceremony for the games is at 9 a.m Saturday at the ballfield at the fairground, Bixley said. The games get started at 9:30 a.m., but times for all the following events depends on when each previous event concludes.

The first event is the stone throw followed by hammer toss, sheaf toss (Rope stands in for sheafs of grain), which involves using a pitch fork to throw the sheaf over a bar, tossing a weight for distance and for height. After a lunch break, Bixley said the heavy hammer throw and caber toss will take place. The caber is a long telephone pole-like length of timber, and the event is a crowd favorite.

"It's the most dramatic," he said.

New this year is a children's caber toss, Bixley said, but they use a caber made of cardboard. The event may become a regular part of the games.

"That's what we're hoping," he said.

At the lunch break Saturday, Bixley said Gatlinburg, Tenn.-based Tuatha Dea will be performing in the 4-H building.

"They focus on Celtic rock," he said.

However, for the games the group will play more traditional Celtic music, Bixley said.

"They'll play on and off during the day," he said

Also on Saturday in the 4-H building, Bixley said there will be a haggis-eating contest, which involves speed rather than quantity. A traditional haggis is made from a sheep stomach stuffed with other internal organs, oatmeal, onion, spices and other items. Modern haggis uses other animal casings and fillings.

Saturday there will be a presentation of Highland dancing and a performance by Superior Pipes and Drums, Bixley said.

At the end of the day, Bixley said the final scores for contestants will be tallied. There will also be a redrawing for unclaimed raffle items, and a 50/50 drawing.



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