Caber toss

PALMER — The Alaska Scottish Highland Games are returning to the Alaskan State Fairgrounds in Palmer Saturday, bringing new events and activities, familiar favorites and hundreds of vendors and athletes to go around. This one-day festival celebrates everything Scottish, offering entertainment for the whole family.

“Outside, the pipes and drums sound fabulous,” Alaskan Scottish Club President Joan Massart-Paden said.

Each year, this event draws in waves of local and professional athletes to test their might and overall skills in a series of Highland games straight from the Motherland. There are also numerous children’s games and the annual Kilted Mile is a very family oriented event, according to Massart-Paden.

She said this year, there will be over 100 food and craft vendors, over 100 athletes, and five pipe and drum bands. There will be several Celtic dance performances and activities.

Celtic pipe and drum bands and solo performers will compete throughout the day. The high energy Celtic band The Fire played last year and they’re back by popular demand.

There is a new athletic event this year called the sheaf toss. Athletes will toss bales of hay over a bar. Massart-Paden said it’s an event that’s popular in Lower 48 so they picked it up. She noted there will be six professional men and six professional women athletes this year.

“So that’s pretty exciting,” Massart-Paden said. “You should see these women athletes. It’s amazing.”

Massart-Paden said the annual caper toss and salmon toss some of the popular events people look forward to each year. Like most of the events, the caper toss, involves tossing heavy objects, in this case a telephone pole.

“There’s actually a geometric way of doing it and that’s what you’re scored on. It has nothing to do with distance. It’s pretty interesting,” Massart-Paden said.

There will be plenty of Scotch to taste and a shortbread contest in the Tea Tents. A crowd favorite is the annual tug of war.

“The crowds love the tug of war. We have a children’s tug of war as well. That’s fun,” Massart-Paden said.

Eighteen different Scottish clans will gather, each with their own tent and collection of lore and ancestral records. Massart-Paden said there will be a cooking demonstration in the Clan Conclave.

“One of the complaints last year was there was just too much to do. I mean, how do you fix that?” Joan Massart-Paden said with a laugh.

The Alaska Scottish Club hosts this event each year. It’s a nonprofit group with volunteers dedicated to helping people get in touch with the Scottish roots and celebrate with events like this. This is the biggest and most renowned event, drawing in people from across the state and around the world each year.

“We have such a great group of volunteers and board members that have really stepped up to the plate and made our games and our other events fabulous. We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Massart-Paden said.

This event has proved to be a popular way for Alaskans to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Each year, hundreds of men, women and children come dressed in traditional Scottish kilts, painting the fairgrounds plaid for a day. From pivotal historic events to modern cuisine, there’s plenty of Scottish influence around the world.

Massart-Paden has been the Alaskan Scottish Club President since 2016. She said that she admires how influential the Scots have been over the years and loves being a part of its celebration and preservation.

“The Scottish heritage has affected everything. I’m a history person. I love to hear the pipe and drums and I love to see the caper toss,” Massart-Paden said.

Massart-Paden saw the weekend forecast and is expecting sunshine.

“It’s supposed to be a fabulous day too,” Massart-Paden said.

The gates open at 8 a.m. with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m.

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Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at

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