SPRING FLING - Last minute touches are being put in place for this year's Red Deer Highland Games. The popular event runs June 25 at Titans Rugby Park.

Celebrate Scotland with the Highland Games

Under the theme of ‘A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’, the 64th annual Red Deer Highland Games is set for June 25 at Titans Rugby Park.

Although it’s a day of perhaps special meaning for those of Scottish descent, pretty much anyone will get a kick out of what unfolds, organizers say.

“I would say about 3,000 people came through the gate,” said Justin Stewart, the committee’s entertainment coordinator. “It’s a very family-friendly event and with a rich cultural heritage and history.”

Although activities kick off at 8 a.m., the official opening ceremony takes place at 11:30 a.m.

There is plenty to enjoy from traditional Scottish cultural activities to entertainment to contests and lots of tasty foods to enjoy as well. This year, the usual concession foods will be available but there will also be Scottish dishes available to purchase.

Meanwhile, highlights through the day include the sheep dog trials. According to the Red Deer Highland Games web site, it was in the latter part of the 19th century the best working collies could be found in the border countries between Scotland and England – hence the name ‘Border Collie’ currently used today.

Border Collies are prized for their skills in gathering, driving, penning, singling and shedding (separating out particular sheep from the flock). They exhibit what is known as ‘eye,’ the ability to hold and control sheep with only the force of their firmly planted feet and fixed stare.

Dancing, piping, athletic and drumming events are held through the day, and there is also shortbread competition as well. Folks can enter onsite, and all the proceeds from that support the Red Deer Food Bank, said Stewart.

“As of last month, there were more than 100 dancers registered to take part as well.”

McPherson’s Pub, which features lots of lively Celtic entertainment, will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the parade of massed bands starts at 5 p.m.

A special Ceilidh runs in the evening around 8 p.m. (tickets are $15 for that event) featuring popular local band St. James’ Gate. Edmonton-based The Pure will be performing at about 6 p.m.

Various athletic events, including throwing the hammers, tossing the caber, tossing the sheaf are planned. Highland dancing events include everything from The Highland Fling, The Sword Dance to the The Sean Triubhas which dates to the rebellion of 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie challenged the might of England and lost.

As a penalty, Highlanders were forbidden to wear the kilt and had to wear trousers. On hearing the news that the ban on wearing the kilt was lifted, they tore off their trews and this dance was born. The motions of this dance defiantly depict a man taking off his ‘breeks’ (britches) and returning to the freedom of the kilt.

Of course, there will be a tug of war competition as well.

For more information, check out www.reddeerhighlandgames.ca or call Justin Stewart at 403-506-7718.

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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