Highland Games coming to Heritage Festival

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:46 PM

The annual Spring Lake Heritage Festival will give spectators a taste of Scotland on Saturday.

The Highland Games — a collection of traditional feats of strength with roots going back to Scotland — will be held at Central Park, beginning at 10 a.m.

Events range from tossing a 16-pound rock to attempting to flip a 20-foot-long cedar pole.

The games are named after one of Spring Lake’s most famous ancestors, Winsor McCay — an animator and cartoonist who is mentioned in the same breath as Walt Disney when discussing important people in the history of animation.

The Highland Games debuted at last year’s Heritage Festival, according to event organizer Jerry Bowersox, who at 65 years old still competes in the events.

“We do six events,” Bowersox said. “The premier event is the Caber, which is a cedar log from 16-20 feet long. It’s not so much the weight factor as it is the accuracy. You want to turn it over (flip it) so that it lands at exactly 12 o’clock. You can score anywhere between 9 to 3 on the face of a clock.”

The games begin with an introduction and a the first event — Open Stone, a shot-put style event where men toss a 16-pound stone and women a 9-pound rock.

Next is the Light Weight for Distance, a discus-style event.

The hammer toss comes next, followed by lunch at 12:45 p.m.

At 1 p.m. is the popular Caber Toss, followed by the Sheaf Toss at 2 p.m. That event features contestants attempting to fling weighted bags over a bar using a pitch fork.

The final event, beginning around 2:45 p.m., is the 56-pound and 42-pound Weight Over Bar, which is, as the name implies, a competition to see how high contestants can throw these daunting weights.

Through it all, the contestants all wear traditional kilts.

“It’s very enjoyable,” Bowersox said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.”

Bowersox noted that specators are welcome to try their hand at various events, with instruction offered by the participants.

“We take the implements out into the specators so they can lift them, check them out,” he said.

Also taking place on Saturday is the Heritage Fest 5K Run/Walk.

The run kicks off at 8 a.m. on North Fruitport Road, next to the entrance of Central Park. The course winds through Spring Lake before ending at the park.

A free 1/3-mile kids run will be held at the conclusion of the 5K race.

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