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Highland Games bring caber toss and hammer throw to Amherst

Thousands of people visited the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village Saturday for the museum's 33rd annual Scottish Festival. The celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture features piping and drumming, Scottish dance, Scottish food, bands, vendors and kilts at every turn.

The main event is the so-called "heavy athletics," which begin as a way for Highland warriors to stay in shape between battles. They trained with rocks, hammers and tree trunks. The heavy games include such feats of strength as the caber toss (throwing of a large pole), the sheaf toss (using a pitch fork to throw a sack of hay over a cross bar), open stone and braemar stone (throwing rocks for distance), and the hammer throws (swinging and throwing a hammer with the feet planted).

Sudden wind and rain brought the games to an early end Saturday, sending spectators scrambling for shelter inside the museum and beer tent. But fans will have another chance to experience the festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the  museum, 3755 Tonawanda Creek Road in Amherst.

The festival is expected to bring up to 6,000 visitors to the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst. Last year it was the site of the Masters World Championship, a three-day event that brought 120 athletes from 13 countries. Those interested in learning and competing in heavy athletics can visit the Kilted Throwers Club at BuffaloHeavies.com.

The upcoming Niagara Celtic Festival, held in Olcott Sept. 16 and 17, will host Highland Games as well.

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