Highland Games competitor James Gerrick about to toss the caber at a Highland Games gathering. (Black Press File)

156th Highland Games in Victoria welcomes back World Champion

Up to 15,000 spectators expected to soak up Scottish culture and watch athletes compete

Andy Vincent, one of only two athletes ever to turn the Jim Maxwell Challenge caber, is set to return to this year’s 2019 Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.

The Topaz Park festival runs May 18 – 20 and one of the highlights is the Jim Maxwell Challenge caber toss, where athletes competing in the pro division have the chance to turn the festival’s special caber. So far, only two men have managed to fling the 19 foot 150 pound piece of wood in the air, turning a full rotation before watching it crash to earth.

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“We’ve got some of the top throwers from Canada and the USA coming to town,” says Carl Jensen, director-at-large of the Victoria Highland Games Association.

“On Saturday and Sunday mornings you’ve got your amateur level athletes and in the afternoons there’s a pro men’s class and an elite women’s class. There’s going to be a fantastic group of athletes, like on the men’s side, we’ve got Chuck Kasson coming, who actually won the World Championship in Victoria, last year.”

Jensen adds that on Monday the focus shifts to traditional “strong-man type events” such as athletes lifting atlas stones or performing a farmer’s walk carrying 400 pounds in each hand. It is also a chance for novices to compete, often one of the best supported classes as friends and families flock to see them strut their stuff.

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Jensen, who is an avid competitor, is excited by the talent in the women’s pro and amateur divisions, with an especially strong group competing this year, hoping to build on last year’s performances, where a Victorian competitor broke a world record.

The festival has been running 156 years and will host a variety of traditional strength and athletic competitions, including a traditional tug of war.

But the festival isn’t all muscle-bound warriors throwing telegraph poles about, visitors can watch cutting challenges, broadsword demonstrations and see Celtic fashion.

Those looking for a relaxed day in the sun can sup Lighthouse Brewing Company’s special Highlands Challenge ale from one of the two beer gardens, or mill around the stalls and clan tents. The festival attracts duelling pipe bands from all over B.C. and the Pacific North West, and many attendees will be wearing kilts in their families’ tartan. Kids activities will also feature such as face painting.

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The festival organizers encourage people to come support the 20 local amateurs, who often train multiple times a week, as well as to see the mountainous pros in action. Jensen says he expects up to 15,000 people will attend and watch the 40 amateurs and 18 elite athletes. He looks forward to people having the opportunity to explore pictish culture.

“As our President Jim Maxwell says, ‘When you’re at the Highland Games, everybody can be Scottish for the weekend.’”

For more information on the Topaz Park event visit victoriahighlandgames.com. Tickets are between $12 and $30. Dogs are not permitted on site.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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