Highland games bring old world flavor to Sweet Home

Sweet Home Celtic Festival and Highland Games organizer Greg Downs was happy with the way the event went Saturday and Sunday.

“It was great,” he said. “It was really good.”

The event didn’t draw as many visitors as Downs hoped, but between 700 and 800 spectators visited.

“I know the vendors and clan tents were very happy,” Downs said. Most of them have committed to returning next year, and Downs is hearing from even more that they will be attending next year. The vendors liked the layout and the surrounding area.

Interest from Sweet Home was low, Downs said. Most visitors were from Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and Albany. He thinks he can get more word out locally about the event next year.

“We’re on the net now, and we’ll be getting on all the clan pages,” Downs said. The word will spread throughout the Celtic clans about the event, and it will draw more visitors to Sweet Home.

Downs said he heard a number of positive comments from vendors and clans. They said it was a good first festival. Many first-time festivals have maybe one or two vendors and clans on hand. The number of bands participating also added to the atmosphere.

People enjoyed the music and the athletic competitions, Downs said. In fact, the festival had to hold athletic demonstrations on Sunday because the competitions ended Saturday and visitors wanted to see them.

The athletes enjoyed themselves as well, Downs said. “They had a lot of fun. There were a lot of novices out there.”

Some of the novices were form the Sweet Home Gym and Fitness Center, and they’re talking about getting more involved in Highland games.

Next year, the event will be bigger, with even more activities, Downs said. Different performers plan to attend, including a man who teaches Gaelic and Irish tapdancing. Athletics will need to be expanded to two days, and novices will be broken into their own divisions.

Visitors to the area were impressed by its beauty, Downs said. “Some people hadn’t been here before. They would go out and drive around the lakes.”

Locally, people were asking about whether there was a local Celtic Society, Downs said. Several signed up on a list at the Irish Clan Cian tent to possibly begin forming one.

“There was to many people who had a blast there to not do it again,” Downs said. “We have to have it. There’s too many people that would be disappointed if we didn’t. It’s a lot of fun.”

Downs extended special thanks to Economic Development Coordinator Karen Owen, The New Era, Betty Pierson of the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis and National Guard recruiter Mark Tessmer for their support. He also thanked his mother, Patti Palmer, for coming up from California to help out.