HIGHLAND GAMES - The 71st Red Deer Highland Games was at Westerner Park over the weekend. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Highland Games brings Scotland to Red Deer

71st annual event celebrates Scottish culture and heritage

On a day with so much rain, it looked like Scotland — the 71st Red Deer Highland Games returned to Westerner Park and came with the motto that everyone can be a Scot for the day.

“I always say it is about the Isles. The Highland Festival is not just about the Scottish, it is about the Scottish, the English, the Welsh, the Irish and anyone who enjoys the culture,” Highland Heavy Ben Arthur said.

The day includes multiple events — both athletic and cultural — including Highland athletic events, Highland dancing, a shortbread competition, a kids area, vendors and food trucks that include cultural food and beverages.

Arthur said the event is a proud celebration of both Scottish and Canadian history.

“I am Scottish myself, born and raised, and my Scottish heritage is very important to me,” he said. “There is a lot of cultural background from where we come from and a lot of Canada’s heritage comes from Scotland and the UK.

“It is important we celebrate that and not lose our roots. That is what makes us who we are.”

The main competitions of the day are obviously the athletic events and throw, but Highland dancing and playing the bagpipes are also included as feats of strength.

“You don’t have to wear a kilt to come out and enjoy,” he said. “The heavy athletics really is a feat of strength and we have world champions throwing today. We have champion bands and dinners here today — people who are celebrated all over the globe for what they do.”

Jennifer Meyn, chair of the Red Deer Highland Games, said their event has continued to grow in the last few years.

“We started out smaller, but all across Canada — we are seeing more and more of these events pop up,” she said. “If you don’t have awareness about it, it won’t grow. Having volunteers come out has allowed us to grow and that has allowed the interest to grow.”

Arthur said that Red Deer is a bit of anomaly nationally in terms of growth.

“I think it is important to know that Highland festivals are losing ground all over the country,” he said. “We have had two go down in Alberta this year, which is a great loss for the Highland community.

“Spectators really need to come out and support these events if we want to have them around.

“We want to be a festival that keeps growing and attracts fans.”