Highland Games at Irish Festival brings together competition and heritage

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. — The 39th Annual Peoria Irish Festival highlighted competition and heritage through sports.

Besides food and music, the Highland Games on Sunday served as entertainment at the festival.

But, this competition isn’t like any other.

“Some of these events pre-date the Olympics. The stones were the precursor to the shot put. These were originally a test to see who belonged in the king’s guard,” said competitor Dan Gashaw.

Over 30 athletes competed in eight events on Sunday, tossing weights, stones, and bundles of straw for distance and height.

“There are highland games that celebrate culture all over the country,” said athletics director Merl Lawless.

Training is one of the biggest factors in being able to compete in the highland games.

“Technique and practicing everyday is what they really need to do to master the technique and get the most power out of their throw,” said Lawless.

Some athletes even train six to seven times a week.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks you could have a guy right out of the gym winning weight lifting competitions and his technique is not developed and he can be out thrown,” said Lawless.

While the games are very competitive between athletes, they never shy away from showing sportsmanship and encouragement.

“Enjoy it, learn about it, and if you want, try it, and for those who are wanting to try it, just do it,” said competitor Jeremiah Osteen.

The highland games will return to Peoria next year at the Irish festival.

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