The Victoria Highland Games are about more than just the caber or the keg toss. The games, celebrating their 150th anniversary this year in Victoria, are also seen as an event that honours arts, heritage and culture.
“It’s a celebration of Scottish and Celtic arts and culture, which is not just the sports side. It’s also the music and the dance,” said Jim Maxwell, president of the Victoria Highland Games Association. “All the traditions of Scotland were brought here with the first Scottish settlers in the fur trade coming in the 1850s.
“I think the catch of it all is all this pageantry and spectacle and music.”
Thousands of people are expected to flock to Topaz Park on May 18 and 19 to take in the sights and sounds of everything Celtic.
Maxwell promises this to be the biggest and best Highland Games yet, with national and international athletes competing in the heavy events, and a variety of performers – from dancers and singers to big bands – to keep the family entertained.
“It’s a very emotional experience taking it all in. The sound of the bagpipe played well is rather passionate, the dancers in their kilts are impressive,” Maxwell said. “And then of course we have the pipe bands, individuals who are drumming and piping. We have some of the best in the world coming. It’s quite a high-quality event.”
His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, will act as chief of the Games, presiding over opening ceremonies both days, and the closing ceremony on the Sunday.
While the Highland Games happen over the Victoria Day long weekend, arts and culture events span the previous week, too.
Tomorrow (Saturday, May 11), the Tartan Parade will take place downtown. Pipe bands, highland dancers, athletes and Scottish organizations will walk down Government Street from Centennial Square to the B.C. legislature beginning at 11 a.m. The bands will then perform on the legislature lawn, and dancers will perform the highland fling.
On May 16, Canadian Celtic folk-rockers Spirit of the West perform at Sugar Nightclub (858 Yates St.). Opening for the group is the Greater Victoria Police Pipe Band. Tickets, $35, are available at Lyle’s Place (770 Yates St.) or at ticketweb.ca.
“You want a family-oriented weekend of pageantry and spectacle? Come to the Victoria Highland Games and you won’t be disappointed, because it’s not just a band playing on stage, it’s the colour, the atmosphere that makes it special,” Maxwell said. “Everybody can feel the excitement and the passion and the professionalism and the culture. It’s quite an experience. I have people come up to me with tears in their eyes every year saying, ‘This is fantastic.’ That’s what we want everybody to see.”
Advance tickets to the 150th Victoria Highland Games are available to purchase ($12 for adults/$10 for students and seniors) at The Strath, Vision 2000 Travel Group and Loghouse Pub Liquor Store.
Visit victoriahighlandgames.com for ticket and event details.