Ligonier Highland Games returns to Idlewild & SoakZone

September 15 – A friendly disagreement over recipes led to the creation of a shortbread baking competition at the Ligonier Highland Games.

The baking competition will take place for the fourth year, while the 63rd matches will take place on Saturday at Idlewild & SoakZone in the canton of Ligonier. Doors open at 8:00 a.m., with the last event starting at 5:30 p.m.

“There was a bit of a row between two of our long-time attendees over an ingredient,” said Games Executive Director Rick Wonderley.

He couldn’t remember which ingredient sparked the debate, but one included the ingredient, the other protesting that it didn’t belong in a traditional shortbread recipe.

This is how the competition was designed and now welcomes entries in a traditional category for purists and a specialist category for bakers who want to get more creative.

Participation is free, although participants must pay admission to the games. Entries of at least six pieces of any shape must be delivered to the headquarters tent by 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Judging will take place at 2:30 p.m. and the results will be announced at an awards ceremony scheduled for 5 p.m.

“We have real connoisseurs. They’re serious about shortbread,” Wonderley said of the contest judges. “I asked if I could be one, and they said, ‘You’re not serious enough.’ I said, ‘Can I at least eat the leftovers then?'”

First, second and third place winners will receive gift cards.

As well as sweet biscuits, the event will feature other traditional Scottish fare, including music from harps, fiddles, bagpipes and drums; Highland dancing and heavy athletics competition.

Featured pipe bands will be the Seton Hill University Pipe Band, Balmoral Pipes and Drums of Pittsburgh and the North Coast Pipe Band of Ohio.

Other entertainment will include more music and storytelling.

Gaelic products

A vendor village will offer Scottish/Celtic products including books, music, clothing, jewelery and musical instruments. A T-shirt with the games logo will be available.

The St. Andrews Society will provide information on Scottish genealogy and clan tartans. Visitors to the Scottish Clans tent can find information about the clan with which a surname is associated, as well as information about that extended family in the ancient land and their role in Scottish history.

Weavers and historical and military re-enactors will also be present.

The ever-popular heavyweight athletics competition will include classes for amateurs, masters and women in caber throw, Braemar stone and stone throw, shot put for distance, hammer throw and throw of sheaf. A separate keg tossing competition is planned, along with a women’s haggis toss and children’s games.

“This year Idlewild Park will be open during the games,” Wonderley said. “That hasn’t happened in decades, maybe since 1983 or 1984.

“Last year the new owners opened a few rides, but they thought it would be a good crossover to have the whole park open,” he said. “It attracts a larger audience. People who bring their kids might want to ride the rides, and it attracts people who wouldn’t otherwise come to the games.”

Most food stalls and kiosks in the park will be open, along with a beer tent near the carousel. Visitors can also bring their own food.

Admission to the games and the park will require separate fees, Wonderley noted. Dogs are not permitted in the park except for registered service animals.

Due to a shortage of staff, this year’s games will miss the traditional Gaelic mod, usually offered as a two-day showcase of Scottish Gaelic song, music, poetry and storytelling based on the Scottish Royal National Mòd and the Provincial mods.

It also explains that the games are continuing as a one-day event this year, Wonderley said. Before a pandemic break in 2020, the event lasted two days.

“We hope to get back to two days in 2024,” Wonderley said.

For more information, including entertainment and game times, visit

Shirley McMarlin is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Shirley by email at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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Jennifer R. Strohm