Highland Games, Celtic Festival here this weekend

In Greg Downs’ vision, the emphasis on Saturday’s Sweet Home Highland Games and Celtic Festival should fall on the word festival.

He founded and organized the first one last year and is organizing a larger event this year, with more to offer, including more music, new organizations, clans and activities.

The festival will include demonstrations by the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA) to battle games by the local Amtgard chapter. It will include a caili that will start at 6 p.m. and end whenever. That event includes dancing and music in the pub, possibly even storytelling. A wide variety of activities can take place.

New this year will be a women’s category for the games themselves. Last year, the festival had just one female athlete. This year, eight are already signed up. Persons can contact Downs ahead of time to sign up or sign up at the festival.

In music, Red McWilliams of Texas, the Wicked Tinkers of California and Amadan of Corvallis will all entertain throughout the day along with pipe bands. The three bands also will play the caili.

Downs noted that an Amadan performance in Bend recently quickly turned into a jam session. The Tinkers, he said, “they’re wild. They’re just wild.”

The pub will be provided by the Oregon Beverage Company and include Budweiser plus three microbrews.

Downs organized the festival mainly so there would be one at home. He has traveled for several years to festivals and games throughout the Northwest.

Much of the spotlight for the event will go to the athletics. Those include events like the caber toss, throwing stones and weights and the hammer.

The Boys and Girls Club of Sweet Home also is providing games for children Saturday morning.

Last year, the festival drew about 1,000 visitors, Downs said. This year, he is anticipating about 2,000.

The Tinkers are a large part of the draw this year, he said. He has received a number of emails from persons who saw the festival listed on the Tinkers’ website’s tour information.

“It’s going to be bigger, louder,” Downs said. “Last year, we didn’t have the music after 6 p.m. It just kind of stopped.”

The event had 39 vendors and clans signed up as of Friday compared to 21 last year.

The SCA will demonstrate medieval battle and demonstrate other aspects of medieval culture. A tent will be on site to provide information.

“My goal is to have a festival,” Downs said. “Not just strictly (Highland games). I want a real mix of activities.”

That may even include jousting at some future festival.

The Highland games themselves are a modern event with roots in Celtic history.

“My goal is to have a whole festival where you walk from one end and go from one age to another,” Downs said. “We’re going to have to move the fences over in the next couple of years … wrap it around the arena. My goal is to have the whole other side of the arena for SCA and other stuff. I just want to have a big affair where people come and see all kinds of stuff.”

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Outdoor Events Center, where the Calapooia Roundup is held, on Long Street. The event is organized under the Chamber of Commerce. Gates open at 8 a.m. both days.