Highland Games seeking Equestrian Center encore
Crowd estimated at 2,500 (despite rain) June 26

       Before June 26, it had been five years since the last Highland Games and Celtic Festival in Colorado Springs.
        Buoyed by the healthy event turnout at the Penrose Equestrian Center, the Scottish Society of the Pikes Peak Region is planning to make it two years in a row in 2005. Mark Buchanan, a Coronado High track coach, tosses the caber during heavy athletics competition in 
Penrose Stadium, monitored by judge Hank Bradshaw
       Actually, negotiations with the Equestrian Center had begun before at least 2,500 people (a rough estimate by Society spokesperson Gloria Hamilton) nearly filled the center parking lot for the June 26 Games. But the good crowd was a confidence-builder for the volunteer organization. “We feel encouraged,” Hamilton said. “If we managed to break even, or even come close to it, we would feel more secure about doing it again next year.”
       This was the first time the event has been held at the Equestrian Center, which offers both indoor and outdoor venues, as well as open grounds in between (and camping facilities for participants who need that amenity).
        She said the feedback she's received is that “the crowd was really pleased with the site. They thought this was an excellent location for this type of thing - which is pleasing to us because we want to stay there.”
        Next year, the date appears more likely to be in early August, because of Penrose schedule demands and the need for the Highland Games to take place on a weekend when it won't be in conflict with other such events in the Rocky Mountain region (three June 26 in an area including Wyoming and New Mexico). Also, Hamilton hopes the event will be able to grow next year.
       The Games had taken place for 17 years, but after 1999 a good site could not be found. This year, the Scottish Society was able to work out a suitable arrangement with the Equestrian Center; it also helped that the society is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and Hamilton indicated this was a way of commemorating that.
        She said one of the enjoyable aspects of this year's Games was that there were “a lot of people who have no Scottish connection, but they still had a good time. It's an event that seems to go over well in the region.”
        The outdoor stadium offered Scottish sports (also called “heavy athletics”), smaller-scale children's athletics and a pulling contest by draft horses. The indoor stadium had dancers, musical entertainment, concessions and 28 clan booths. Between the two venues were stages with featured musicians Alex Beaton and Jerry Brown, and bagpipers strolled the grounds.
        A strong afternoon thunderstorm failed to bring the Games to a halt. In fact, the timing couldn't have been better, starting just after the heavy athletics had finished and ending in time to allow the pulling competition between about 3 and 4:30 p.m.

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