Dunedin Highland Games WOW the Crowd and Help Preserve City’s Scottish Heritage
Each spring, Dunedin’s Highlander Park transforms into an arena where competitors, spectators and Clans gather to partake in a piece of Scottish tradition-the Dunedin Highland Games. This year the transformation takes place Saturday, April 7, and everyone is invited! The 52th Annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival will be a family event unlike anything most of us have ever seen. It’s a day filled with bagpipe music, Highland dancing, authentic food and clothing, and male and female competitors challenging each other in some traditional contests to see who will walk away the winner.
This modern-day event keeps alive a centuries-old tradition that began in the Scottish Highlands when Scotland was run by a clan system. In those days, different clans would challenge one another in a series of athletic and musical events. As word of the events spread to other cities, their popularity grew and so did the number of Scottish cities hosting their own games.
From High School to Highlander Park
Dunedin’s Highland Games started over a half a century ago as a way to raise funds to support an earlier decision to go with the Scottish trend of wearing kilts and having bagpipes in the high school band. Coordinated by the band boosters and held at the local high school, the Dunedin Highland Games was an instant success. But with success came certain restrictions and after a few years, the event moved to Highlander Park to accommodate ever-growing crowds and ever-growing appetites for fish ‘n chips, Scottish meat pies and beer.
“Today, no matter where in the park you go, there’s always something going on,” said president of the Dunedin Highland Games Committee. At one end of the park is the individual bagpipe competition. At another end is the Highland dancing competition. Taking place simultaneously in another area of the park is the drumming competition. Over in the park’s main area is everybody’s favorite, the athletic games competition. There’s also an area where vendors sell everything from Scottish kilts and jewelry to authentic food and drink.
Athletic Events Score High
Repeated surveying reveals that the athletic events are by far the most popular part of the Dunedin Highland Games. With names like Caber Toss, Hammer Throw, Sheaf Toss and Stone of Strength, the athletic portion of the day is an incredible display of physical strength and endurance. Contestants compete in one of several divisions including Amateur, Masters, and Women’s with each division announcing first, second and third place winners at day’s end.
Dating back to the 16th century, the Caber Toss is a heavy event favorite. Each contestant grabs onto what resembles a telephone pole with one end wider than the other. The Caber starts off weighing about 100 pounds and measuring about 20 feet long. Little by little, one end of the Caber is sawed off, making it progressively lighter and easier to toss.
The hammer throw is another crowd favorite and, although it sounds dangerous, it isn’t. Grabbing a wooden shaft, contestants swing the shaft around their heads while turning and then throw the hammer as far as they can. Judges score each throw.
The individual pipe band competition is another big draw. About 15 individual pipe bands from all over the states and Canada compete for top honors. Individual bands are graded based on their caliber of playing. The Dunedin Highland Middle School Pipe Band is among the competitors. Consisting of mostly beginner players, the Middle School band, as well as the City of Dunedin Pipe Bands and the Dunedin High School Pipe Band, always impress.
Capturing the true essence of Scotland is the Highland Dancing competition, where bagpipe players and kilted dancers perform traditional Scottish favorites including The Sword Dance, The Sean Triubhas, The Reel O’Tulloch and The Highland Fling. Incredibly sophisticated and highly competitive, judging is based on timing, technique and artistic interpretation.
This year’s upcoming events leading up to the Highland Games:
SATURDAY, MARCH 31 – HAIL TO THE CHIEFTAIN
Welcome our 2018 Chieftain of the Games, Dr. Pat Snair off the City’s Weaver Park Pier on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. She will be accompanied by our 2018 Bonnie Lass and Bonnie Lad of the Games. She will kick off Highland Games Week with a concert by the Shakes Society in Weaver Park at sunset. This event begins at 5 PM (till 9 PM). Chieftain’s arrival approximately 7:30 PM!
OH YES, AN ENTIRE DAY OF SCOTTISHNESS…….. (but it’s just getting you ready for Saturday!)
FRIDAY, APRIL 6 – PIPING RECITAL BY STUART LIDDELL
You ever want to know what the best bagpipes in the World sounds like? Come to the Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation Hall at 2:30 pm on Friday afternoon, and you will find out! Stuart Liddell, Pipe Major of Inverary & District Pipe Band, 2017 Grade 1 World Champions will be treating us all to a concert of epic proportions! Admission is only $15. The DSAF Hall is located downtown Dunedin at 1134 Douglas Avenue, and afterwards you can walk over to watch the Pipe Band March parade down Main Street.
FRIDAY, APRIL 6 – PIPE BAND MARCH
It’s our 4th Annual and is one of Downtown’s most exciting events! Come and watch the spectacle of color of tartans and sounds of the pipes as bands from all over march down “Main Street USA”. We’ve also got Highland Dancers, Scottish Clans and Societies and will salute our Dunedin Mayor and Commissioners, Chieftain, Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation President, Scottish American Society President, and Bonnie Lass and Bonnie Lad. The parade route steps off from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office parking lot on Louden Avenue, north to Main Street, then west down Main to Broadway. Broadway south to Scotland Street, back east to Douglas Avenue, and ending at Pioneer Park where we will have a traditional Ceilidh, a Scottish Party! Parade steps off at 6:30 PM!
FRIDAY, APRIL 6 – CEILIDH IN THE PARK
Come for the Parade….. Stay for the Ceilidh! Featuring Brayze Heads and Off Kilter, you will dance to the tunes of these great Celtic bands! Bring your lawn chair and relax while we promise you will be entertained! Buy a beer, a ticket (for the Games) and a T-shirt to wear on Saturday at the Games! Concert from 7 PM (Brayzen Heads), 8:30 (Off Kilter) till 10 PM.
For tickets and more information including parking visit www.DunedinHighlandGames.com .
Story Brought to you by Best Destination Events in Tampa Bay written By Lisa Dozois with updates provided by https://dunedinhighlandgames.com/.
Check out one of the Best Dining Destination’s in Dunedin.