For top-ranking, heavy-event athletes, the Victoria Highlands Games is already on the international map – but it’s not all about the strongmen at this weekend’s festival.
The annual event is growing a strong reputation for its Scottish and Celtic cultural events as well.
“What we’re trying to do is create a very high quality Highland Games with world-class entertainment,” said Jim Maxwell, president of the Victoria Highlands Games Association.
There are several firsts this year, including a drum major challenge.
“That’s brand new for us,” Maxwell said. “They don’t it much in Canada.”
World champ Jason Paguio of Simon Fraser University will compete by leading a band up and down the field twirling and tossing his baton, keeping the beat for the musicians.
“These guys make an art form of it,” said Maxwell, adding that next year he plans to hold a competition between the 10 best drum majors in the world.
Dancers, pipers and drummers will also compete on Sunday (May 20).
Many of the Celtic events evolved from Scotland’s strong military culture, explained Maxwell. Strong-men events were used to select warriors, roughly 1,000 years ago. Similarly, pipers historically led the regiments into battle. “The bagpipes are the only registered instrument of war.”
The same was true of highland dancing.
“It was only in the mid-1900s that women were doing it. Up until then, it was training for all the Scottish regiments. If you watch the highland dancers, it takes dexterity and strength to do it.”
Also new this year is the first sanctioned sheep-herding competition. Other crowd-pleasing competitions include sheep shearing, duck herding and tug-of-war. Add to the list two beer gardens, haggis tasting, history presentations, falconry and sword fighting demonstrations, whiskey school and a Celtic music festival.
“It just goes on and on,” Maxwell said.
He expects 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend the events Saturday and Sunday. It hasn’t always been that way.
“It wasn’t that long ago, it was a one day fairly small event and now it’s quite a large event and it’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”
Mark your calendar:
The Victoria Highland Games take place May 19 and 20 at Topaz Park. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and youth, free for children under 12. For more information, visit www.victoriahighlandgames.com.