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Homer celebrates 13th Annual Kachemak Bay Highland Games

Scottish culture and heritage is celebrated around the world through a lineup of sport events and music performances held as part of Highland games celebrations. From the Kenai Peninsula to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, multiple communities celebrate the games in Alaska.

Onlookers cheered at Karen Hornaday Park as kilt-clad athletes threw stones, hammers, logs and more during the 13th Annual Kachemak Bay Highland Games. The rain didn’t deter the attendees from listening to harp and drum music, eating haggis and watching people compete in heavy events, a series of modernized Scottish sports in which athletes throw items as far or as high as possible. A well known event is a caber toss, where athletes try to throw and flip a large, heavy log lengthwise in front of them.

Homer’s games come at the heels of the Alaska Scottish Highland Games in Palmer. That community hosted the sport’s women’s world championship this year.

Robert Archibald organized the Kachemak Bay Highland Games with Renee Krause. He said the annual festivities attract people who want to compete in a more informal event than the one held in Palmer.

“A lot of them are from Anchorage and the valley because after the Palmer games, which is a huge affair, very much organized, this is kind of a unwind, be happy game,” he said, “so a lot of them come down here”

This year’s games featured the most competitors and vendors in Homer. Both locals and people outside the state competed in the games, including Sian Cooper of South Australia. Even though she’s only competed in the games for less than two years, Cooper is the current Australian women’s champion and made it to this year’s world championship.

“I did hammer and discus and shotput when I was back in high school, so the skills sort of transfer into Highland Games,” Cooper said, “so although I've not been in it too long, it, I've sort of picked it up quite quickly, which is good.”

Cooper competed in the women’s world championship in Palmer the weekend before and decided to enter in Homer’s competition as well, where she took first place in the women’s advanced amateur division.

“I heard about this competition in Homer as well. And I thought, ‘oh, my gosh, it sounds like a beautiful place, and I need to come compete down here as well,’” she said.

Other out of state competitors like 21-year-old Maddie McClain of Idaho grew up with the sport. She appreciated the supportive competitors and unexpected wildlife.

“We had a moose run up right about right there with her kid. And so that was kind of cool and surprising and I don't really see a bunch of moose in Boise,” she said.

Hal Shepherd lives in Homer and has been involved with organizing the games for years. He likes how this event welcomes people of all skill levels to participate.

“One of my favorite thing about the games is no matter how good or bad you are, there's always support from your group and from everybody else and the audience,” he said.

To make things approachable for beginners, organizers even hold a clinic the day before the competition to teach the basics of each event.

In addition to the traditional events, Homer adds its local flair with a halibut toss — where people throw an over 40 pound fake halibut as far as possible. They also allow young people to compete with lighter throwing implements throughout the day.

Shepherd said the main goal of the games is to educate people on Scottish culture, and hopes to get more young people to participate in the coming years.

Correction: This story was corrected on July 10 2024. A previous version of the story misstated the date in all photo captions as June 6, 2024. The correct date is July 6, 2024.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.