The second annual Grapevine Lake Celtic Festival and Highland Games were held at Meadowmere Park on April 9. This event not only celebrated Celtic heritage, but featured traditional music, dance, food, and, of course, Highland Games.
The Games consist of traditional Celtic feats-of-strength competitions such as Braemar Stone, Hammer Toss, and Caber [log] Toss. Altogether, there were 14 athlete classes, each competing in 9 different events.
Susan and Doug Berry founded Highland Arts and Athletics in 2021 as a non-profit organization to keep this Celtic tradition going in the DFW area and to contribute philanthropically to the Grapevine community. Doug serves as the CEO and Athletic Director, and Susan does just about everything else!
This year, the beneficiary was the Grapevine Shield Foundation, a local organization that exists to support the families of the Grapevine Police and Fire Department officers after an injury or death.
The bigger Highland Games events in DFW had previously been hosted by UTA until recently.
“University of Texas at Arlington used to host one of the bigger Highland Game events [in the DFW area] for years, but it ended up that they had some issues. They dismantled it, and then it moved to Decatur. And it's hard to pick up and move a festival because of all the pieces that have to come together,” Doug explained.
“Decatur is not quite in Dallas, and so this [event] is also filling that need [to offer games in the DFW area]. Lots of people told us last year that they were so happy that now this is back in the Metroplex,” Susan said.
Doug and Susan did not set out to create this Festival. It just kind of...happened.
“Highland Arts and Athletics just kind of came to fruition. It wasn't really intentional," Susan explained. "At first, we started to host backyard games during COVID. We just wanted to do something to gather to be a part, you know, that kind of thing. It was just a small smattering of athletes, maybe a half dozen people, that got together to throw.
“Actually, around the country, a lot of guys would throw together backyard games. You get six or eight athletes together to throw so they can get their numbers in [to qualify] just in case there was a world competition in 2020. Doug came to me in December of 2020, and he said that we should bring the games back here again. And four months later, it turned into this,” said Susan, opening her arms wide to encompass the festival.
The event features many different classes of athletes, from novices to what Susan calls “the Super Group.”
“[The Super Group] are the professional athletes. They either used to be professional athletes or should be professional athletes. So, they are the cream of the crop. They're a lot of fun to watch,” she said.
“ was our first year doing it. We have a good relationship with [the city of] Grapevine, and so, it had legs. It took off. We had 70 athletes in the first year, and we have over 100 participants in 2022,” Doug said.
The feedback from 2021 and the encouragement of athletes, festival-goers, and the city convinced the Berrys to keep going.
“When we started to get ready for this year, we already had heard talk of how wonderful it was last year,” Doug said. “We spent a lot of time on social media, building things and paying attention to little things and [promoting] it and really creating a brand. We're both entrepreneurs, and we're both self-employed. I have Texas Fire Protection, and she has BGC Tax, which is her own company. We both have that kind of structure in our brains. And when putting this thing together, it just naturally kind of came together.
“Working with the city has been great. We were concerned about parking this year because there are 280 spots out here, and we calculated in our heads how many people are going to be here. I called the city and told them that I think we're going to have a parking problem. And they just jumped and said they have this parking area off-site, and they have a trolley.
“So, our affiliations with such great organizations made this just so easy. Our benefactor this year is the Grapevine Shield Foundation. They are such an incredible organization. They kind of eliminate the red tape to take care of the families of first responders who are injured or killed in the line of duty. If an officer or a fireman/woman goes down, they are there with the families, writing them a check where they're sitting, asking, ‘How can I help you?’” Doug explained.
As more evidence of city support, Councilmember Susan Rogers made an appearance to read Mayor Tate's Proclamation to make April 9, 2022, Grapevine Tartan Day.
Athletes competed for placement in the NASGA (North American Scottish Games Association) web-based database, which keeps track of athletes and their throws. This ranking system is used for invitations to go to National and World competitions.
About the Highland Games:
The Stone Events:
The Stone event can be compared to the shot-put of today, but instead of a steel shot, athletes throw stones of various weights and sizes. The “Braemar Stone” event does not allow toe boards or running prior to throwing the stone, which means that the athlete must throw the stone standing still. Generally, men’s stones weigh around 22 lbs. and women’s stones weigh approximately 13 lbs.
The “Open Stone” event, which generally uses a 16 lb. (56 lbs. for the “heavy” category) stone for men and a 9 lb. (28 lbs. for “heavy”) for women, allows the thrower to use any style as long as the stone is thrown with one hand. This event allows for spinning or gliding prior to the release of the stone.
The Hammer Events:
This event is a close cousin to today’s Hammer Throw, featured in track and field competitions. The athletes throw a round metal ball with a throwing shaft instead of a hammer. The shaft is usually around four feet in length and supports a ball weighing 16 lbs. for men and 12 lbs. for women in the “Light Hammer” category and 22lbs. for men and 16 lbs. for women in the “Heavy Hammer” event.
The Caber Events:
A Caber is actually a piece of tree that is a bit wider at one end than the other. Cabers may be between 16 – 22 feet long and weigh between 70 – 150 lbs. Athletes must pick up the Caber from a vertical position, run and throw it so that it flips over. This event is scored for accuracy and requires the thrower to be positioned as if he or she is facing the 12:00 position on a clock face. Judges stand behind the athlete to see how close to 12:00 he or she gets. If the competitor does not manage to make the caber flip, the angle to the ground from where the caber lands is measured.
About the Benefactor:
The Grapevine Shield Foundation provides assistance to the family members of Police Officers and Firefighters from Grapevine, Texas, who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
The Grapevine Shield Foundation was established in 2008 by members of the Grapevine Heritage Lions Club. A board of directors manages the Foundation, and all funds donated are used to the benefit of police officers' and firefighters' families in a time of need.
The Foundation has no paid employees and the directors do not receive any compensation.
Each and every day, the citizens and businesses of Grapevine enjoy the security provided by the work of our police and firefighters. Most of the time, we do not give it a second thought, but we know that if we need them, they will be there. They go to work each day ready to put their safety and lives on the line for us. When tragedy strikes any of us, they are there to help. The Grapevine Shield Foundation wants to provide security for them in return.