By Christina Whiting
When Homer resident Shelly Fraley discovered her Scottish heritage a few years ago, she wanted to learn more about her history. She watched the Homer Games for the first time in 2011, and then just dived right in.
Fraley participated in the Homer Games and the Eagle River Games for the first time in 2012, taking third in her class in the Eagle River Games. Last year, she volunteered as a judge assistant at the Homer Games and this year, she will assist the professional judges with the Heavy Games at the Homer Games.
“Everyone should check it out, as an athlete or spectator,” she said. “It’s really fun and safe and it’s not as scary as people think it will be.”
Men and women of all ages and levels of athleticism will compete in this year’s fourth-annual Kachemak Bay Highland Games and Celtic Fair on July 5 at Karen Hornaday Park.
“The games provide an opportunity for locals to connect with their Scottish descendants,” said Renee Krause, Highland Games Coordinator.
It’s also a great opportunity to don kilts, throw a bunch of big rocks and play with a pitchfork.
Athletes are grouped according to experience and age, with categories available for “Littles,” ages 5-11, and “Middles,” ages 14-18. The main event is for those 18 and older who have attended a four-day training session prior to the games.
The competition will consist of a variety of games, including tossing a sheaf of hay with a pitchfork, throwing stones, running a mile in a kilt, a tug-of-war and more. Special to the Homer Games is the throwing of the halibut and a golf bag toss for distance.
One of the highlights of the Games is “turning the cabers.” Contestants pick up a 14-18-foot log and toss it into the air away from them with a goal of turning it exactly 360 degrees.
“For beginners, the hardest part of throwing a caber is getting it up and off the ground without losing their balance,” said Games co-founder Robert Archibald. “And then getting out of the way of it landing.”
Charles Knefelkamp, a heavy equipment operator from Mat Su, first participated in the Homer Games in 2012. Knefelkamp said he grew up challenging himself to physical feats that others could not do, and looked to his Scottish ancestry for inspiration. He trained his body for competition to represent his family.
“I immediately excelled at heavy-throwing, the challenge stone and farmer’s walk,” he said. “I am proud to be a part of this tradition and the sense of family that accompanies these events.”
Cody Krause is a 22-year-old supervisor at the Soldotna Fred Meyer, and Krause’s son. He participated in the Games last year for the first time, after seeing his mother’s enthusiasm.
“This year, I want to launch the hammer out of the park,” he said.
Homer’s first Scottish Highland Games were organized in 2003 by Robert Archibald and Dave Brann. After hitting a number of roadblocks, the Games were discontinued after the second year.
In 2011, determined to leave a legacy for her kids and grandkids, Renee Krause advocated for the return of the Homer Highland Krause, Archibald and Hal Shepherd worked to establish the Kachemak Bay Celtic Club.
The local club is governed by a Board of Directors and currently has 17 members.
Last year, 24 men and six women participated in the Games.
“Having Scottish or Irish ancestory is not required to join,” Archibald said. “Anyone with an interest in the culture, be it the games or history, is welcome.”
This year’s Kachemak Bay Highland Games and Celtic Fair takes place July 5 at Karen Hornaday Park. Organizers seek participants of all ages and skills, as well as vendors, musicians and volunteers for the fair. Pre-registration is available online before July 1.
On the day of the event, gates will open at 9:30 a.m. with the heavy games starting at 10 a.m. Registration is available by 8:30 a.m. the day of the event. Interested adult, novice participants must attend a free training clinic held July 1, 2 and 3 at 6 p.m., and July 4 at 7 p.m. at Karen Hornaday Park.
The cost for adult competitors is $30, which includes entrance into the event and a T-shirt. Prizes will be awarded. Spectator admission is $10 for adults, $5 youth ages 5-16 and $25 for a family.
More information, membership and pre-registration is available at kachemakbaycelticclub.com or by calling Renee Krause at (907) 953-6546 or Robert Archibald at 299-0852.
A Ceilidh (kay-lee) will follow the Games at the Elks Club on Jenny Way at 6 p.m, with a traditional Scottish meal served.
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