Tuesday, October 3, 2023

35th Celtic Festival Offers Something for Everyone


New Mexico’s First Pro Athlete Competes in Scottish Highland Games

The term “there’s something for everyone” is an understatement when it comes to the 35th Rio Grande Celtic Festival this weekend at the Albuquerque Balloon Park. To cue you on the event, The Paper. spoke with Festival Director Libby Casarez and Nik Aston, from Roswell, the first New Mexican pro athlete to participate in the Scottish Highland Games.

The best gestalt of the Highland Heavy Games is – it’s about the athletic art of throwing heavy things. Traditionally Scottish Clans competed against each other, now anyone can compete in the sport, offered primarily at Celtic Festivals around the world.

After competing for five years in the games and winning the amateur All American and the National Championship, Nik Aston decided to go pro. “I made the jump and started throwing with people that were better than me that would continue to push me to get better. I also could start making money doing it,” Aston told The Paper. The festivals pay pro athletes to compete at their events.

What Do They Heave in This Throwing Decathlon?

There’s the “Caber Toss” for accuracy. The athlete flips a 175-pound pole almost 20 feet tall into the air, it flips once and lands on the ground. A “12 o’clock” face clock landing is a perfect score. For the Sheaf Toss event, a burlap sack filled with twine is thrown over a crossbar with a pitchfork. Highest throw wins.

There are several weight tosses that have a variety of rules on how to throw them. Items thrown include a 22-pound heavy and 16-pound light hammer, two stone throws and a single handed 56 pound heavyweight and a 28 lightweight throw.

The Braemar stone is a 22-pound stone thrown from a standing position. “You can't have any sort of approach; you can't shuffle or spin. You have to just stand there and throw it as far as you can,” Aston explained. For the 16-pound stone throw you can glide, shuffle, spin, or maybe do a “highland fling” to build momentum.

Aston has his Masters in Exercise Science, owns Enchanted Strength, which operates out of Iron Soul Gym. “Most of my clients compete in various strength sports. I get to work with Highland Games athletes, weightlifters who compete in Olympic weightlifting and Strongmen,” he said. Pro men and women compete Saturday at 9am. Over 100 amateurs will compete in the games Sunday.

Events and Vendors Galore Entertain Festival Goers 

On Sunday, the Festival paired with CABQ for the collegiate National Championship Cycling race. “Three hundred cyclists are going to be racing around our festival field from 9:00 o'clock until 330pm,” Libby Casarez explained. It's a flat track and fast.

Music this year includes BROTHER from Australia, local bands and acoustic entertainment. A bagpipe solo competition and a Scottish Highland dance competition happen Saturday. “If you're part of a clan and you don't know much about it, we have clans and societies that can talk to you about the history of the Celtic societies,” Casarez said.

A kid’s area includes English tea and crown making to celebrate King Charles’ coronation. They can also compete in Action Fantasy sword fights. National and local vendors offer beaucoup items to purchase. If you’re hungry or thirsty you’ll enjoy Scottish Heritage meat pies, a French bakery, Uncle Cletus’s old-fashioned sodas and three beer gardens with local brew.

“If anybody wants to come in costume, we would love that. Most of us are dressed in kilts or some kind of Celtic dress,” Casarez said.

There’s even a little parade about 11:30 am Saturday for registered Celtic dogs. Like we said, there is something for everyone!

35th Celtic Festival bat the Balloon Park

Saturday, May 6, 9am-6pm
Sunday May 7, 9am-5pm


Sat $15, Sunday $20

Both Days $25

Tickets: https://www.celtfestabq.com/


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