Highland Games and Festival returns to Dunedin | North County

DUNEDIN – The sounds of bagpipes and drums will soon echo across the city as the 54th Highland Games and Festival returns to Dunedin for the first time in two years on April 1-2.

The event organiser, the Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation, said it was “so delighted to welcome everyone to the best Highland Games in the country. After being without games for 2 years, we’re back and better than ever.

Spectators will also see the Florida Highland Open dancing championships, Scottish heavyweight athletics, vendors selling Scottish crafts, clothing and more, and a food court offering “not only delicious Scottish food, but also regular and unusual options,” DSAF added.

Tartan banners will adorn lampposts on Main Street, as the festival kicks off with a lavish parade filled with pomp and ceremony through downtown Dunedin on Friday April 1 from 6.30pm.

To announce the city’s Celtic history that dates back 140 years, pipers, drummers and Scottish clan walkers decked out in colorful tartan-patterned kilts will parade down Main Street, heading for a neighborhood evening on Broadway . Scottish Highlanders have worn kilts for over 400 years because in the soggy bogs of the Scottish Highlands pant legs would be wet and damp making them impractical.

Festival organizers note that pipe bands travel to Dunedin from all over Florida, as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina and other destinations. Organizers expect to see the biggest bagpipe entry ever, with 21 bagpipes scheduled to participate.

After the parade, the launch party will feature live music from 7:30pm to 10:00pm with the band Clover’s Revenge and lots of Scottish food, beer and cheers.

On Saturday, the Dunedin Highland Games and Festival will bring together specialist Celtic sporting events, pipers, dancers, entertainment, artisans, savory food, beer and hundreds of spectators at Highlander Park, 1920 Pinehurst Road. Clover’s Revenge will once again perform in the beer tent area.

The games and festival received an “Elite Event” award and grant from Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

“We are proud to be the only event in Dunedin to qualify for this award,” the organizers proudly noted. “The honor was bestowed due to the large number of attendees who travel to attend the event locally and from across Florida, North America and Scotland each year.”

Sporting events a draw

Festival officials note that traditional Scottish sporting competitions are crowd favourites, with athletes bringing huge acclaim. Spectators line the fences and fill the stands as talented and very strong men and women compete in categories that include:

• The Caber Toss, a traditional Scottish athletic event that features athletes tossing a full length log, resembling a power pole, end to end. The caber is placed upright and then lifted by the competitor, using both hands placed under the bottom of the caber, to rest it against their body. The competitor then runs forward, building momentum, before tossing the caber into the air, so that it spins from end to end. The plan is for the top end to land before the end originally held by the competitor for distance.

• The sheaf toss finds an athlete using a pitchfork to throw a burlap sack, stuffed with straw weighing approximately 16 pounds, over a horizontal bar above the competitor’s head.

• The Scottish Hammer is a throwing event that involves a hammer made from a metal ball, weighing approximately 22 pounds for men or 16 pounds for women, attached to a wooden pole or handle. Participants use the handle to spin the hammer around their head, then throw it as far as they can for the distance.

• In shot put or stone throw, competitors throw a large 20 to 26 pound stone as far as they can. The stone is thrown either after a short run or from a fixed standing position, depending on the rules of the competition.

• Weight-over-the-bar competition requires athletes to throw a 56-pound weight over a raised bar. The weight is thrown with one hand, with a handle at the end of a short bar. With each successful attempt, the bar rises higher and higher, eliminating competitors one by one.

• Good old fashioned tug of war involves eight individuals tugging at another team of eight, dragged along by an extra team member who shouts encouragement.

Music, dance also on the menu

“One of the most iconic elements of the Dunedin Highland Games has to be the sound of the Great Highland Pipe Band. We are very pleased to announce that our Pipe and Drum competitions are Eastern US Pipe Band sanctioned events. Association,” organizers said. “The best pipe bands in the country will perform at the Highland Games.

Another popular event, the Highland Dance Competition, features Highland dancers. More than 100 competitors have already registered, organizers said. The Florida Open 2022 is for Scottish Champion, Premier and Pre-Premier dancers only.

“We’re having an old-fashioned sack race, as well as games for kids,” DSAF said in a press release. “There will be lots of arts and crafts, a few athletic mini-games, and a make-up artist and balloon artist for the Wee Ones”

Scottish cattle, affectionately named “Heelin Coos”, Clydesdale and Shetland ponies, as well as a demonstration of sheepdogs will also be on hand.

Because the event is loud and crowded, pets are not permitted at the event. No coolers are allowed, but participants may bring chairs.

The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with all off-site parking at Dunedin High School, 1651 Pinehurst Road and other nearby areas. A free shuttle will transport spectators from 7:00 am. until 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 at the door or are available for pre-sale for $15 cash at the Celtic Shop in Dunedin or online at www.DunedinHighlandgames.com, www.Dunedingov.comor www www.visitstpeteclearwater.com.

Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult.

A popular event that starts early, the 5K Kilted Trail Run is also back, starting at 9 a.m. on April 2, starting and ending in Highlander Park. Registration includes entry to the games and of course a shirt, plus other cool items. To register, go to the Highland Games website and click on “Competitions”.


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Jennifer R. Strohm