What are the NoCo Highland Games?


The simulated hay bale is about the size of a block of cement – sewn together in a soft box, a pitchfork easily pierces its burlap exterior.

Suspended from the tines of the fork, Kara Bonham throws the fork up and catapults the bullet, pulling it up and back over her head before it falls to the ground behind her.

The event – a wreath-throwing – is the first Highland Game event Bonham saw in a competition two years ago.

“I was like, ‘what is this?'” Bonham said recently in a park north of Fort Collins, with the ball, a set of weights, a Scottish hammer and a stone in his hand. feet.

In the years that followed, the 32-year-old Fort Collins firefighter embarked on the Highland Games, a somewhat different workout that celebrates Scottish and Celtic culture through a series of showdowns.

Bonham is now one of a dozen competitors who train with the NoCo Highlanders group and travel to competitions across the state and country.

“Every time you try (to explain Highland Games) to someone you say, ‘well guys in kilt throwing trees,’” said NoCo Highlanders founder and another PFA firefighter. , John Anthony in reference to the famous caber throw, where competitors throw giant, slender logs above their heads.

But the Highland Games are more like a “really heavy decathlon,” added Anthony. “We have nine events that we host each time.”

Dressed in a kilt – her dusty pink hair tied in a bun – Bonham showed off a handful of events. She grabbed a 9-pound flat rock first, then her light 12-pound Scottish hammer, then a 14-pound metal weight attached to a small chain that looked like a torture device.

One by one, she threw them away like toys. The boulder, used for the open-pit stone event, was catapulted into the air like a shot put. The Scottish Hammer – a lightweight version with a weighted ball attached to a PVC pipe – flew through the air like an athletic hammer throw. The torture device was thrown over Bonham’s head. In competition, she would try to cross a horizontal bar placed above her.

“It’s a great bunch of people, you can throw heavy things, train for that…” said Bonham, who is trained as a strength and conditioning trainer. “It’s just something competitive to look for afterwards.”

The NoCo Highlanders recently participated in the Colorado Medieval Festival in Loveland and the Pikes Peak Celtic Festival in Colorado Springs.

The next Colorado Highland Games event, hosted by Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes, will take place at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival at Casey Jones Park in Elizabeth on July 15-16. The big event, the Long’s Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival in Estes Park, is scheduled for September. 9 and 10 at the Estes Park exhibition center.

To follow the Highland Games competitions, visit RMSA.org. To watch the NoCo Highlanders training in Fort Collins, check their Facebook page for updates on practices and events.

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Jennifer R. Strohm