Fifth annual Highland Games see big jump in participation
By all accounts, the fifth annual Highland Games were a success.
Although no results were available by press time, the games saw friendly rivalries and fierce competition as some of the top competitors in the Northwest converged on Prineville.
"This can grow and become a huge community project," said event organizer Tom Keffer. "We had local athletes. We have a lot of athletes from Idaho, and we have professional athlete Robin Knebel from Sutherlin. He came out just to play with us today. Typically, you don't get professional athletes who just show up to be a part of something, so for him to come out is a huge honor for us."
Keffer added that Bend's John Odin, who had set world records in the hammer throw each of the previous three years, tried to break his own record this year, but just missed.
Prineville resident Dan Moore, who won his classification in the competition, was also pleased with how smoothly the event ran.
"We had a lot of new faces this year," he said. "In fact, we had a huge novice division, and we had a teenage division, and that's the first time I've seen that."
Moore added that although competition is stiff, all of the competitors are willing to help and encourage newcomers to the sport.
"Come down and ask questions and check it out," he suggested. "It doesn't take much more than that. Come down and watch and check it out, then sign up and try it out. Once you try it, you'll love it."
Keffer said that he believes that the event can grow into something big if it gets more community support.
The Highland Games have been hosted by the Bald Mountain Knuckle Draggers each of the last four years. The Bald Mountain Knuckle Draggers are based in Idaho, and Keffer said that creates several logistical problems for the event.
"We need more local help," he said. "We have been enlisting more local help as far as vendors, but we want a better venue. We want a grass venue, and we want to be in the heart of town."
Keffer said that this year's event had 33 competitors compared to 23 a year ago. He believes that the event will continue to grow, but that a move to Ochoco Creek Park would really benefit both the event and the community.
"We have an amazing following, and they are helping us grow this event and spread the word about this event," Keffer said. "But we need more for our spectators. More for our athlete's families. We need more involvement from the community to make this a better event all the way around."
Keffer noted that most of the athletes at the event came from Prineville, including a growing novice contingent.
Still, he cautioned that without community support, the event may not last much longer.
"This is a Prineville thing," he said. "We would love to have kid's events and kid entertainment. The problem is that I live in Idaho, and we need local help to keep this event alive. Once we get more vendors and a bigger venue with more entertainment and all of that, then it brings in the city and more people. I dedicate five years to every event, and next year is number five for me, so next year either has to be an extreme success, or that may be it."