Congratulations to the Michigan Highlanders’ Own Martin Portko!

Huge congrats to Martin Portko who made it into this year’s Highland Games at the Alma Highland Festival! As this is only Martin’s second year competing in the games, getting chosen was a huge honor for him.

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Game Face    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Caber Toss    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Caber Toss    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Nailed It    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Sometimes you just need to celebrate a perfect caber turn with a big ‘ol hug from Eric Spence    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Sheaf Toss    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Sheaf Toss    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

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Eric Spence and Martin Portko    –     Photo Credit: Heart and Sword Photography

 

The Highland Games…in Japan?!

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Highland Games competitor, Aaron Ramey, has done something stellar–he organized and competed in the Highland Games… in Japan! And even better, he’s agreed to answer all our nosy questions.

So tell us, what motivated you to bring the Games to Okinawa, Japan?

The motivation to bring the Games to Okinawa was a bit selfish.  I had been training alone and traveling internationally to compete so asked if we could do on here.  That motivation changed as interest grew and people were having more and more fun training.

Who participated? 

The event was a mixture of military members from the Army, Air Force, Marines, Department of Defense Civilians and visitors from off-island like Julian Vandervelde, Kengo Kubota, and Shuichi Sato.

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How did you become interested in participating in the Highland Games?

Regular strength training for the sake of strength training was beginning to get stale.  After my readings in strength training progressed from Rippetoe to Pavel, I ended up on Dan John where my interest in training for Shot Put and Discus led to the Highland Games.

How long have you been participating?

I am currently in my third year of competing.

What’s your favorite event, and why?

The Weight Over Bar.  It teaches me to wait.  After using some of the techniques provided by the Pockowski’s in the Contrarian Approach to the Highland Game, my throws become much smoother and less of a struggle.

What’s your least favorite event, and why?

Sheaf.  It is hard to train the Sheaf in Japan and I always have to bum a fork from other people because of my reluctance to bring the fork on an international flight.

Do you have a games-related goal you’re striving for? If so, what is it?

I have one primary goal and that is to meet as many of the great people that are in the Games as I can.  I tend to be hesitant in meeting new people and the Games help break those barriers.  In relation to throwing goals, I only hope that I can be competitive in the A Class.

What’s your best games-related memory?

I am stuck between two.

17 March 2017, I went out to the field for the 1st Annual Torii Station Highland Games to ensure all the footboards were in place, paint was down, and all the implements were in working order.  Some of the competitors were out throwing around the implements with Julian Vandervelde.  Looking around it really hit me that the Games were in Okinawa, Japan.  That feeling progressed as I had to literally shoo competitors off the field so we could all get some dinner.

The second memory was on the evening of the Torii Station Games when everyone had departed, the lights were off, and we were enjoying the night with a couple of beers on the porch of the cabins looking over the beach and the competitor’s field .  The top female competitor of the day, Lauryn Burleson, walked away with some of her fellow Military Police (MP) while Julian Vandervelde and myself relaxed and exchanged stories.  After about 5 minutes, we both heard a distinctive “thud” followed by a celebratory “Woooooooo!!!”  We both looked at each other and wondered if we heard what we thought we heard.  Low and behold, after some investigation we found Lauryn and the MPs were out turning cabers in the dark.  Nothing like turning cabers in the middle of the night and while on break from a patrol.

Do you plan to compete this year? If so, where?

Yes.  After having completed the event in Torii, I have plans to be back in the States for training from April till the beginning of June and hope to attend the Tennessee Smoky Mountain Games, Alma Highland Games in Michigan, and any other Games I can participate in within an acceptable radius.

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Assuming you’re not a professional athlete, what do you do when you’re not training?

When I am not training I am spending time with my wife and dog, working, and trying to get in a couple good books on history.  My current profession is a Security Specialist with the U.S. Air Force in Okinawa, Japan.

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What are the three things in your life you’re the proudest of?

Marrying my wife, Shoko Tsukuyama.  She tolerates my hobbies and adventures and supports everything that comes along with it.

Working with the U.S. Army Torii Station Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) team here in Japan to put together their first Highland Games.  While it is our first Games, the advice I received from Jerry Bowersox and Mark McVey helped smooth out a rocky first time and provides a solid baseline for future Games.

Winning first at 215 in the 1999 Indiana High School Wrestling State Championships.  It was a cumulation of support, training, and guidance from a wide range of people in my life.

Thanks so much for sharing, Aaron! We’re looking forward to hearing about the 2018 Torii Games – be sure to take lots of pictures! 

St. Patrick’s Day – SCF Fundraiser Wrap-Up

As Josh and Martin clearly demonstrate, nothing says Sparta Celtic Fest Fundraiser and St. Patrick’s Day quite like the kilt-bowling shoes combo!

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Josh McAlpine and Martin Portko

Thanks to everyone who came out to Sparta Lanes, over $800 was raised for the 2017 Sparta Celtic Festival! And a lot of fun was had.

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Josh, Kelli, and Martin

And the after party at Cellar Brewing Company was fantastic, too. Blarney Castle performed several amazing sets and a great time was had by all! Thanks to everyone who came out to help raise money for an awesome festival!

Get yer Irish on (and yer bowling shoes)!

It’s that time of year–time to enjoy an evening out with your friends and neighbors and raise money for the upcoming Sparta Celtic Festival! 

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So, come kilted (or not) and enjoy 2 hours of bowling, in two-person teams at Sparta Lanes  on March 17th from 7-9PM at 125 N State St Sparta, MI 49345.

(Sparta Lanes can help match you up if you don’t have a second!)

In addition bowling, there will also be:

– 50/50 Raffle
– Strike Pot
– Prizes
– A drink ticket to Cellar Brewing after event!
– Must be 21 or older to Bowl

After Party at Cellar Brewing Company with music by 2016 “SCF Festival Favorites” Blarney Castle! (9:30-?)

$25 per person – All proceeds to benefit The Sparta Celtic Festival. Contact Marty Portko for ticket information!

Meet Ken Green – Highland Athlete, Photographer, and Poet

Today, we’ve got something special on the Michigan Highlanders news page! Author, photographer, and Highland Games athlete, Ken Green, is here to tell us about his latest project–a book of poetry that combines his love of the written word and his eye for visual composition.

Huge congratulations are in order–his book, Inside of Me, released on March 4th of this year.

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This book features both your poems and photography. How long have you been writing?

I started writing about 4 or 5 years ago. I was working through a tough time in my life. A good friend of mine read some of my first works and encouraged me to keep writing. The more I wrote, the better I felt. Then, one day, it was just over. It seemed I had nothing more to say. The words stopped coming.

Some time later, that same friend told me what I had written was great and I needed to share it by putting them in a book. So I did. But then, I decided to do something different and shoot pictures that reminded me of each piece of work. That was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But the end result was exactly what I was trying to achieve.

And how long have you been interested in photography?

As far as photography, I was a graphics arts major in school. Shooting pictures has always been a fun hobby. Now as far as the writing, that was a surprise. If someone had told me 10 years ago I would write a book of poetry, I would have laughed out loud.

What’s your favorite poem in the book? 

As far as my favorite poem in the book, I would have to say it would be the poem, “Wisdom”. It’s kind of my story, in a way.

How long have you been involved in the Highland Games?

As far as the other side of my life–the Highland games. I have been doing games for 19 years. I’m getting kind of beat up. The typical shoulder problems that come with this sport. Some days are better than others. But I can’t see myself not doing games and spending time with my Highland family. Highland athletes are some of the best people you would ever want to meet. As real as they come.

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Being a Highland Games athlete is more of who I am, more than what I do. My family came over from Scotland around 1904. MacDonald of Clanranald.

What’s next for you–more poetry?

I’m not sure if I will ever write any more. But I have been thinking about a book of photos of some of the great places and sites of this great state of ours. I love the outdoors. And traveling as much as I can. I have been to Scotland twice. Both for Highland World Master’s Championships. What an amazing experience.

Care to share a little more about yourself?

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I am the superintendent of a 65-acre cemetery in Lansing. The company I work for owns parks all over the country. I have been working there for 37 years. I was going to school to be an architect but got married and had my amazing daughter, Lauren. So school got put on hold. But I have no regrets at all. I have a great daughter and great friends and family, so I am a lucky man. I lead a simple life. My daughter, my work and my Highland Games. A dram of good scotch and a cigar is always a nice break once in awhile.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book? 

I really do hope people like what I have done with this book and hopefully understand what it’s saying.

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If you’d like to check out Ken’s poetry and photography, you can pick up your very own copy of his book. Just click on the link below! 

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And if you’d like to have Ken sign it, just bring it with you to the Alma Highland Festival, Gaylord Highland Games, Saline Celtic Festival, Sparta Celtic Festival, or The Michigan Renaissance Festival. He’ll also have copies of his books available for purchase at each venue.