Dublin Villager

Dublin Irish Festival

Hammers, stones, cabers and sheep will surely fly

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Athletes from throughout the U.S. will converge on the Dublin Irish Festival to throw the heavy hammer and stone and toss the caber.

The Amateur Highland Games will be held in the Greenfields Sports area in Coffman Park from 3 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, but visitors can get a look at other Celtic sports with demonstrations throughout the Aug. 1-3 festival.

The Highland Games are one of four competitions put on annually by the Great Lakes Scottish Athletes Association.

"There are actually nine events in the Highland Games in total," said Brian Huntley, association president.

"We generally don't do all nine at most competitions," Huntley said.

"We pick a few from the line up, but we have to have certain events for it to count in the national database ranking."

The caber toss will be on the agenda this year, Huntley said.

"They try to flip (the wood pole) end over end," he said.

"It's more about accuracy than distance. You have to flip the caber end over end so it's pointing at 12 o'clock on the clock face."

The heavy hammer event will make its debut at this year's festival.

"It's basically a long stick with a weight at the end and they throw the hammer for distance," said Jeremy Gerstacker, a Dublin events coordinator.

"It's exciting because they can get some distance on that," Gerstacker said. The field is 200 by 180 feet and we need all that space."

For other events in the Highland Games, Huntley said athletes will throw a weight ranging from 28 to 56 pounds depending on the competition class over a gradually ascending bar.

The sheaf toss and traditional stone toss are also on the agenda.

"There's so much camaraderie with the athletes and there's a very big sense of family," Huntley said of the event.

"You rarely see a sport where somebody is trying to help someone else beat them. ... Everybody's always helping people and helping them do better."

Helping children learn the ropes of the Highland Games is also on the schedule from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 and 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3.

Huntley said the cabers and other tools of the sport are modified for children.

"We have a women's caber we use that became a little light," he said. "I took that and cut it in half ... . It's just like what we do.

"They're anywhere from 4 to 7 feet tall and are a scaled down version of what we use."

Lighter stones are used for the stone throw and a stuffed sheep works as a stand in for the sheaf toss.

"I would say we've had kids as young as 2 or 3 up to 16 or 17 and even some mothers and sisters in the games," Huntley said. "We encourage them to try it as well."

Other events slated for the Greenfields area include a bagpipe showcase from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, and hurling and sheep-herding demonstrations.

A professional hurley stick maker will also be on hand and festival guests can try their athletic prowess at darts, Irish road bowling and cornhole.

For more information about sports and other activities going on the at the Dublin Irish Festival, look online at dublinirishfestival.org.

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