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Every spring, Balloon Fiesta Park opens its gates to host the annual Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival. The festival is the only one of its kind in New Mexico and perhaps the entire Southwest.
This two-day celebration of everything Irish and Scottish offers something for everyone. There are traditional Irish and Scottish games, Irish dog contests, bagpipers, a rugby tournament and shops selling almost anything Celtic.
The Celtic games are one of the main attractions. They include strength games such as the caber toss, a game where a long-tapered pine pole is stood upright and hoisted by the competitor, who then runs forward attempting to toss it in such a way that it turns end over end with the upper end striking the ground first.
Other games include the hammer throw, weight over bar and the stone put. The games are open to anyone and competitors range from burley men in kilts to high school students.
Other activities include a British car show, live Celtic music, Celtic dance and bagpipe competitions. In addition, the rugby tournament is held annually. Teams come from all over the Southwest and feature men and women, as well as high school and competitive divisions. This year both girls and boys high school teams traveled to Albuquerque to take part in the tournament, which also includes several exhibition matches such as the rhinos — where the 14 heaviest men battle it out on the pitch — and the Xena warriors match where all the women rugby players dress up in costumes to play.
The annual Celtic festival is truly one of a kind with activities, food and games only otherwise found in Ireland and Scotland.