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6th Annual Aztec Highland Games Kicks Off


October 6, 2017

Joel Hager of Bloomfield catches some air as he winds up to throw the weight for distance in 2014

Get ready! The first weekend of October brings San Juan County the Sixth Annual Aztec Highland Games and Celtic Festival at Riverside Park in Aztec. The family friendly event features incredible athletes competing for fame, with historic costumes, live music, specialty vendors, and a dance competition. It's a weekend of fun for a very low price. This year, the games will be all weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, October 7th & 8th at Riverside Park.

Charles Thacker is a local competitor and judge at the Aztec Games. "Riverside Park is an awesome space to hold the games with the shade, grassy field, and great atmosphere. It's like a small backyard BBQ with a family friendly competition. The time of year is also a plus for Aztec, not too hot and not too cold." Thacker has traveled to games in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Bernalillo, as well as Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. He has been competing for five years and judging for three.

Thacker explained that all events except the caber toss are based on either distance or height; how far or how high someone can throw a weight. "Strength is involved, but technique can make the difference. It's all based on physics." He said last year a person who had never thrown was given advice by a world champion. The champion wasn't worried about giving out secrets of technique. Instead, he wanted to encourage and support a beginner. That's what I like best about the games."

Another local competitor is Chris Faverino from Aztec. "In my opinion it is a great celebration of Celtic and German culture and heritage. I've attended since the first one, and participated in the last couple as a class "C" competitor," Chris explains. "It's an awesome time, lots of good food, music, and revelry."

But local competitors are only part of the story. Over 45 athletes from states around the region and country join the locals this weekend to compete for the prize. Many of these may have traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to attend and enjoy Aztec's hospitality during this annual weekend of outdoor fun and music.

Francis Brebner, a retired professional competitor, returns to Aztec to be the Athletic Master of Ceremonies at the 2017 Aztec Highland Games. Brebner, originally from Peterhead Scotland, brings a wealth of information about the history of the games and the events. According to Brebner, the history of Highland Games dates back over 3,500 years to 1500 BC. It began at the Telton games in Ireland. These games were put on in honor of Queen Telde who had passed away.

One of the first throwing events was a chariot wheel thrown for distance. Other events that took place were Wrestling, running, horseback riding, and hand-to-hand combat. One of the oldest events of the throwing disciplines is stone putting followed by the caber toss.

Brebner has competed all around the world but really enjoys the games in Aztec. "The venue at Riverside Park is wonderful" he explains. "It is how traditional games should be and is reminiscent of the games in the villages in Scotland," he said. He also added that "Aztec had about 60 competitors last year, which is very good for a town of this size."

Supporting the event in emcee duties will be Scott Michlin of KSJE on the main stage.

For more information, check out the Aztec Highland Games website at http://www.aztechighlandgames.com.

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