Laketown Township trees ready for role in Highland Games

A future Highland Games champion may literally have roots in Laketown Township.

Local participants in the Holland Celtic Festival and Highland Games collected more than a dozen fallen trees from two township parks on Tuesday, Nov. 1, that will be used for caber toss, a traditional Scottish competition of throwing a large, tapered pole.

“We found the fallen trees in Wolters Woods as I was walking with a friend of mine,” said Kate Boeve of Holland about the park at 6281 147th Ave. “She really wanted to walk there because she had heard it was very nice. It was lovely, and while walking I noticed many downed trees that were nice and straight, so I called the township office to see if they wouldn’t mind us collecting the downed trees for Highland Games.”

Boeve is a world-class Highland Games athlete and record holder.

The township does not allow people to take standing trees from parks. Boeve and a group of three others chose trees that had already fallen. Brett Grams, Laketown facilities operations, supervised the removal.

“It’s like shopping for a Christmas tree,” joked kilt-wearing Tom Kassion as he walked through the leaves at Wolters Woods checking fallen trees for strength, weight and straightness.

“They can’t be old and brittle or too full of insect destruction because they need to be able to withstand landing on end repeatedly,” Boeve said.

Several logs also came from the township hall, 4338 Beeline Road, where an overgrown area had just been cleared.

Boeve and Kassion were joined by fellow caber-tossers Paul Markel and Eleazar Almanza Jr. to collect the fallen trees, some of which needed three athletes to pull from the leaves and hoist onto the trailer. Taylor True Value Rental, 62 S. Waverly Road, donated the 20-foot trailer used to haul the logs out of the parks, Boeve said.

This is the first time Boeve has used trees from Laketown Township. She and her teammates usually get their cabers from the Cadillac area.

“We are very excited for this donation of trees to make new cabers because our older ones were aging out,” she said.

The Laketown Township trees will be stored in a barn and a drawknife will be used to clean off the bark. The tree will be cut to a desired length based on its thickness and weight then pared down with a smooth smaller end so a thrower can hold the caber in their hands while running with it before they throw it.

The cabers will then be used of local practices and in competitions in Holland and Kalamazoo.

Cabers can be 6 to 8 feet for young athletes, 14 to 17 feet long and up to 90 pounds for female participants and 17 to 21 feet long and more than 100 pounds for top-tier male participants.

Boeve got interested in caber toss after attending the Kalamazoo Scottish Festival more than 20 years ago. She began throwing in 2013.

“My grandfather came over from Scotland and I have always enjoyed that heritage but, be sure that you don’t have to be Scottish or Irish or Welsh to play Highland Games. You do have to wear a kilt though,” she said.

Boeve participates in festivals around the nation, in Canada, Iceland, Scotland and, next year, Switzerland.

She served as athletic director for the local games. The 2023 Holland Celtic Festival and Highland Games will be June 23-24. The Kalamazoo Scottish Festival and Highland Games will be Sept. 9.

Tom Kassion, back, and Kate Boeve, front, carry a fallen log out of Wolters Woods Park, 6281 147th Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The log will be used in future caber toss tournaments.
Kate Boeve carries a fallen log out of Wolters Woods Park, 6281 147th Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The log will be used in future caber toss tournaments.
Eleazar Almanza Jr., foreground, lifts a fallen log at Wolters Woods Park, 6281 147th Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, while Kate Boeve and Tom Kassion, both in kilts, inspect the log to see if it can be used in future caber toss tournaments. At far left is Laketown Township employee Brett Grams who helped cut the fallen timber.
Tom Kassion in kilt secures logs on a trailer at Wolters Woods Park, 6281 147th Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The logs will be used for caber toss competitions.