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Wisconsin Highland Games

Off the Cuff with organizer David Sparks

Aug. 21, 2014
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Promising a weekend-long celebration of Celtic culture, the Wisconsin Highland Games returns to the Waukesha Expo Center (1000 Northview Road) for three days of friendly competitions and family orientated festivities. Organized by Wisconsin Scottish, Inc., a non-profit organization “dedicated to preserving the traditional arts, crafts, culture, heritage and traditions of the British Isles,” the 2014 Wisconsin Highland Games will feature Highland dancing, historical performances, a broad selection of food vendors and the Celtic Marketplace. In support of the pending festival, Wisconsin Scottish President David Sparks spoke with Off the Cuff, about “heavy athletics,” the Turning of the Caber, and the 2014 Wisconsin Highland Games opening ceremonies. 


Considered one of the biggest draws of the games, what exactly are “heavy athletics?”

Heavy athletics are basically traditional athletics, like the Caledonian [Scottish] and Hibernian [Irish] games, that often have different rules and use different tools. The Caledonian events will be held on Saturday and the Hibernian games will be held on Sunday. Some of the events people should look for are the Turning of the Caber where athletes rotate a 141-pound log so that it lands at 12 o’clock. There is also the hammer throw and the weights and stones throw events.


Do you have a favorite event?

My favorite event is the Battle Axe & Knife Throw in the axe-throwing area. Ten years ago, when I started with the Highland Games there were two targets in the axe throwing area and only a few weapons, and now we have ten targets, with lots of people coming through. If you want to try it, all you have to do is wait in line. It’s included within the price of admission. We’ll have instructors here for the people who want to try the axe throw or one of the other games. We actually have a group that teaches the longbow that will be teaching their 10,000th person at the games this year.


And for those disinclined to wield an axe, I understand the children’s area and the cultural area will return to this year’s festival.

The Li’l Rampant Lions Kids Area will be outside with a variety of activities and will include face painting, arts and crafts, and smaller, (kid-friendly) versions of some of the heavy games. Families should also plan on visiting the clans area and having “Tea with the Queen” in the cultural area. There are lots of displays in the cultural area with a lot of history and cultural heritage and it’s inside the Expo Center.


Is there anything else prospective festivalgoers should see or keep in mind?

It’s a genuine tradition. There is always a turnout for the opening ceremonies on Friday night. The annual opening ceremony incorporates bagpipers, flags, speeches. And after the opening ceremonies, the Wisconsin Highland Games is officially declared open and all of the festivities can begin the next day.


The 2014 Wisconsin Highland Games runs Aug. 29-31, at the Waukesha Expo Center. To learn more visit wisconsinscottish.org.


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