Saturday, February 17, 2018
Events

Dunedin's Highland Games feature plaid, music and feats of strength

DUNEDIN

Great Scots (and wee ones, too) will converge Saturday for the 50th annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival.

Highlander Park is the setting for the simulated 19th century Scottish village, which will be teeming with clansmen, athletes, pipers and drummers, dancers, vendors, Celtic rock bands and thousands of visitors.

Come with a hearty appetite. Festival fare will include craft beer, wine and cider, fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and haggis, a traditional Scottish pudding made of organ meat from sheep or lamb. Traditional festival food will also be available.

Members from 40 clans will share folklore and intriguing aspects of their family history while helping visitors trace their Celtic bloodlines.

Mad for plaid? Plenty of vendors will offer everything tartan from kilts to jewelry.

Watch jaw-dropping feats of strength as he-men hoist cabers (similar to telephone poles) and other heavy objects into the air for prizes and glory.

"Each year the cabers get heavier," said Alan McHale, president of the Scottish Arts Foundation, which sponsors the event. "This year, we have a super caber weighing 180 pounds. The prize is $1,000."

The event is a major fundraiser for the foundation, formerly known as the Dunedin Highland Games and Festival Committee. The official name change took place last summer "in order to broaden our scope to include visual arts," McHale said.

Dunedin was founded in 1899 by the Scots and the nonprofit organization is dedicated to preserving its heritage.

Gates open at 8 a.m. but there's no need to wait until Saturday to enjoy the Scottish offerings.

Tonight's third annual Pipe Band Parade marches through downtown Dunedin, stepping off at 6:30 p.m. at the corner of Louden Avenue and Main Street. It continues down Main, turns left on Broadway, left on Scotland and circles back.

Led by the honorary chieftain, chiropractor Dr. Mark McCutcheon, the parade will feature bands, clans and highland dancers.

After the parade, partake in clan revelry during the Tartan Reception at the newly renovated Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation Hall at 1134 Douglas Ave. It will be a night of hors d'oeuvres, libations and Celtic rock music by Off Kilter. Admission is $20 with a cash bar. Tickets may be purchased at eventbrite.com.

The city's first games began in 1967 on the football field at Dunedin High School with local athletes participating in a few Scottish games. Eventually, the event was moved to Highlander Park and competitions for pipes and drums and Highland dancing were added, along with sheepdog and fencing demonstrations.

Today, competitors come from all over the nation and Canada.

Last year, a 5K Highland Trail Run was added. The race begins Saturday at 9 a.m. at Highlander Park and transitions into the heavily canopied Hammock Park. Kilts are highly encouraged and the registration fee includes entrance to the Highland Games. Find more information at racehawk.com

The Highland dance competition was recently sanctioned by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing so, for the first time, it will be open to national and Canadian dancers.

In another first, the pipe and drum competitions will include over 125 solo competitions, the "highest amount ever," according to McHale.

"There will also be 19 pipe bands making this the biggest pipe band competition in the state of Florida this year," he said.

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at [email protected]

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