Pleasant autumn weather graced the Aztec Highland Games and Celtic Festival at Riverside Park as the annual event, which began in 2011, drew more 1,100 festival goers over the Oct. 1 weekend.
The festive, friendly atmosphere meant smiling people like Kimberly and Robert Howe gladly agreed to photos and conversation.
“We’re having a wonderful time,” said Kimberly Howe, from the Scottish Campbell clan. “There are actually people from Ireland and Scotland that are participating. It makes it more authentic.”
Animated about the current rendition of the Highland Games, Robert Howe of Welsh-Anderson bloodlines, said, “I’m really, really pleased to see that it’s growing year by year. One guy from Finland came.”
Zachary Nelson and Esteban Munoz represented a younger crowd. The “energy, music and vendors” were their highlights.
J.R. Sykes, former owner of the Aztec Talon newspaper, took the occasion to kilt up and cut loose.
“I love the music and just the community coming together and having fun,” said his wife, Portia . J.R.’s favorite event is the hammer throw. “He was in the ‘bonny knees’ competition,” Portia joked.
Aztec Police Department officers Jacob Harris and Josh Harris posed with Adam Buchanan of Clan Buchanan, who said his favorite aspect of the Highland Games was “my culture.”
A raucous but tight and professional Denver-based band, Angus Mohr, cranked up a Celtic-flavored version of Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up, for a crowd pleaser.
Vendor organizer Cynthia Singleton said some of the 47 vendors liked the small size of the festival.
We have some vendors that have been wowed by this, that have come from pretty far away and they’re used to really big events, and this smaller one, ‘This is so much fun,’” Singleton said.
Rebecca and Robert Boyer of Albuquerque staffed a booth representing their clan.
“We promote Scottish culture and offer membership in the Scottish Society of New Mexico for Clan Anderson International,” Robert Boyer said. “And we also have books so people can research where their clan is … and we have some weapons that people might want to look at,” Rebecca added.
Mighty swords and impressive daggers, such as the Damascus steel model that Robert Boyer wielded were on display.
“That’s actually the only one I have that’s not a replica,” Robert Boyer said.
Peter McKenna, commissioner for Clan McKensie, gave schoolteacher Linda Willard-Brown a history of her Scottish roots.
McKenna, an 11-year attendee of The Games, said, “There is different highlights every year. Some of the bands have been really incredible. I really enjoy watching The Games – they’ve had some records set here – and I enjoy interacting with people who come through the clan.”
“Clan” derives from the Gaelic “Clann,” meaning “children” or “stock.”
Scott Michlin, general manager of KSJE 90.9-FM, San Juan College’s public radio station, served as master of ceremonies for his eighth year. “I know it brings people in … it’s a great thing for the City of Aztec, the venue is great here at Riverside Park, there’s a lot of room for people to spread out,” he said.
Susan and John Bintz offered their pottery – displaying their 15 years of experience – from their booth.
“It’s a really hospitable event – and it’s very interactive, plus I get a chance to watch my history on my mother’s side – she’s Irish,” John Bintz said.
Grand Junction vendor Sharon Taylor of Taylor’s Croft was selling “all authentic Scottish stuff,” she said in a rich Scottish accent. Taylor, a Grand Junction retailer since 2003, said her goods are from Glasgow, and that she helps the artisans and businesses back home by buying directly from them.
“I’m a destination shop, so people come from all over,” “Taylor said.
According to Jessica Polatty, 863 festivalgoers attended Saturday and 251 on Sunday. Twenty-three dancers performed, and 45 athletes competed.