Red Deer Highland Games set to kick off 69th year

  • Jun. 22, 2016 2:48 p.m.

The sound of drums and bagpipes are set to fill the air at Titans Rugby Park on Saturday as the 69th annual Red Deer Highland Games get rolling.

Red Deer’s annual celebration of Scottish culture will see an array of drummers, dancers, bagpipers and athletes in kilts descend on the rugby park to compete in their respective events.

“It’s mostly a festival of Scottish culture and it’s about being able to pass that culture onto our children and all the people that are in the area,” said Debbie Wallace, the chairperson of the Red Deer Highland Games Committee.

According to Wallace, this year’s games will feature all of the events that have taken place in previous years, including piping and drumming, dance and the heavy events.

“This year we have 54 pipers competing, 25 drummers and 10 bands and at the end of the day we’re going to have what we call mass band where all 10 of those bands march together and play together on the field and it’s an amazing sight to see and hear,” said Wallace of the piping and drumming events, adding the Red Deer Highland Games will also play host to a large amount of dancers this weekend.

“The dancing competition this year has not quite 450 dancers and we actually have some dancers that are coming from Scotland, which is a normal thing to have.”

Dancers compete in eight traditional highland dances, including the Sword Dance and the Highland Fling.

Then, of course, there are the heavy events, which are a highlight of any Highland Games, Wallace said.

Heavy events held at the Red Deer Highland Games include Putting the Stone, which is a shot put-like competition, Throwing the Weights for Distance, Throwing the Hammer and the Caber Toss, which involves throwing a large log end-over-end and having it land as close to a straight line as possible from the competitor.

“It’s quite a science with the Caber Toss because they have to toss it and they have to throw it and it has to go end-over-end and measure at 12 o’clock,” said Wallace.

All of the major events at the Highland Games are professional calibre events, meaning that all of the competitors must earn their way to the highest level through the amateur and semi-pro ranks before competing.

“The piping, the drumming and the dancing and the heavy events are all of professional status,” said Wallace, noting that some of the other events that are held at the park throughout the day, such as the Tug O’ War, are non-professional in nature.

“With the Tug O’ War, we just started that event and it’s been quite a struggle to get it going, so that event is just for the general public. We invite everybody just to come and have a tug at the rope and just enjoy it.”

Aside from the many competitions that will be going on throughout the day, attendees will also be able to browse through a variety of vendors and sample some traditional Scottish foods, such as Haggis.

“If you can actually picture yourself being in Scotland and listening to all of the stuff and feeling what all is going on, that’s basically what it is. It’s just like a little piece of Scotland for one day,” Wallace said, adding they are still looking for volunteers to help out around the grounds on Saturday.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, honestly,” she said.

The 69th annual Red Deer Highland Games get underway at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Red Deer Titans Rugby Park just outside of town. Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can contact Debbie Wallace by phone or text at 403-350-2506.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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