Athletes vie in the caber toss during the 2013 games.
Photo courtesy of ARVEL BIRD
Arvel Bird is among many performers at this year’s Highland Games and Festival.
DUNEDIN – Break out the kilt and pack the sporran with bawbees: The games are about to begin.
The 48th annual Dunedin Highland Games & Festival will be Saturday, April 5, at Highlander Park, 1920 Pinehurst Road.
The gates will open at 8 a.m. and competitions will kick off at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $17 at the gate. Children 11 and younger will be admitted for free when accompanied by a paying adult. Advance tickets are available online and at several Dunedin locations including:
This year’s event will feature 16 pipe bands vying for awards along with dancers and athletes. More than 40 clans and societies will set up shop in the Clan Village, ready to meet festivalgoers and share fascinating aspects of Scottish culture and Celtic heritage.
The festival traditionally draws thousands of spectators eager to watch as amateur and professional heavy athletes vie for supremacy in a variety of contests designed to measure each contender’s strength and fortitude. The event also showcases local and national Scottish bagpipers and drummers. The pipe bands, drummers and Scottish dancers also face off in their own competitions.
Demonstrations by sheep-herding dogs also will be presented on the main field throughout the day.
According to Alan McHale, current president of the Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Committee, this year’s festival introduces new facets to the city’s signature event.
“This year there are a number of new elements,” McHale said. “For the first time, the piping and drumming are sanctioned by Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, which has meant that the interest in participation has extended beyond the state of Florida to states around the country. We have participants from New York, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and more.”
In addition to ongoing competitions, musical entertainment has become a fixture at the festival. This year, the committee sought to expand the range of participating artists.
“We have introduced a program of traditional music and dance to the Pavilion Stage,” McHale said. “Arvel Bird and Marcille Wallis and Friends will be playing.”
The Pavilion Stage isn’t the only place attendees can get an earful, though. Bands also will be performing in the “Pipe Drone Pub” on site.
“The Pipe Drone Pub is an 80-by-60-foot tent,” McHale said. “The following bands will play throughout the day: The Wyndbreakers, My Three Kilts and Lucid Druid.”
For the first time, younger festivalgoers will have an opportunity to participate in special athletic competitions.
“We have a new Kids Zone where they can participate in kids athletics,” McHale said. Events include a caber toss, sheaf toss and haggis hurling. “They can also do crafts and we have a face-painter this year. Then we are going to have a traditional sack race for the kids.”
McHale said there also will be a photo booth with props where adults and kids can get a fun memento of their day at the event.
This year happens to be the 700th anniversary of a key event in Scottish history. In 1314, Robert the Bruce faced King Edward II at Bannockburn, near Stirling. The two-day battle proved a significant Scottish victory in the Wars of Scottish Independence.
“We will commemorate this event with a short depiction of the battle enacted by the students of Dunedin Schools,” McHale said.
The athletic component of the Dunedin Highland Games traditionally features a number of events, including:
• The caber toss, with the average caber being 19 feet in length and weighing 120 pounds
• Stone put, including the Braemar Stone version, a standing put using a 20- to 26-pound stone for men (13- to 18-pound for women); and the Open Stone, which uses a 16- to 22-pound stone for men (or 8- to 12-pound for women) and lets the thrower use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release.
• The Scottish hammer, a 22-pound throw for distance
• Weight throws, including a 28-pound throw for distance, a 56-pound throw for distance and a 56-pound throw for height
• Weight over the bar, a 56-pound throw over a horizontal bar for height
• The sheaf toss, a 16-pound bail of hay thrown for height
Though its name may not be familiar, for many, Scottish highland games immediately evoke images of the caber toss. Competitors in this sport toss a caber – a large wooden pole similar in size to a telephone pole – end over end so that it lands with the bottom end pointing directly away from the contestant. It’s not distance the athletes are going for, though, so much as accuracy. The athlete with the straightest toss is the winner.
If the caber toss, weight throws and Scottish hammer events don’t satisfy a participant’s thirst for exhibiting brute force, there is one other optional event: the Dunedin 100-Pound Stone challenge.
Piping and Drumming
This year, the piping and drumming events are sanctioned by Eastern United States Pipe Band Association.
The EUSPBA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving all aspects of solo and band bagpipe and drums music. Generally, the focus is on the Great Highland Bagpipes, the Scottish snare drum, the tenor drum, the bass drum and the performance of drum majors. The EUSPBA recognizes that music competitions provide a means of improving piping, drumming, and pipe band musical performances, and has established a set of rules and regulations.
Following is a list of pipe bands expected to participate in this year’s festival:
• Atlanta Pipe Band • Dunedin Pipe Band • St. Thomas Episcopal
• Dunedin High School • Dunedin Pipe Band • Harp & Thistle Pipe Band Saffron United
• City of Sarasota • Dunedin High School • Dunedin Middle School • Dunedin Pipe Band • Harp & Thistle Pipe Band • Jacksonville Pipes and Drums • North Atlanta Pipes and Drums • Rosie O’Gradys Highlanders • Tampa Bay Pipe Band
Dancers will demonstrate a number of events, including the Highland Fling, the Sean Truibhas, the Scottish Lilt, the Irish Jig, the Sailors Hornpipe and the Gillie Calum – the Sword Dance.
The Sword Dance dates back several centuries to King Malcolm of Canmore, according to the festival website. The king, it is believed, danced over his bloody claymore after vanquishing an enemy on the field. Each dancer’s steps are performed over two blades. The performance requires skill and concentration, as the swords may not be displaced. As the end of the dance nears, the dancer – will clap, instructing the piper to increase the tempo.
Each year, a Clan Tent of the Day is selected at the Dunedin Highland Games and Spring Clan Gathering.
Serving as the 2014 Chief of the Day will be Chris Chmura.
Chmura, a Dunedin High School alumni and former drum major, is a consumer reporter for Fox TV. He appeared at the City Commission on March 20 to accept the Proclamation for Tartan Day, along with members of the Dunedin Highland Games Committee and New World Celts.
Dunedin, tartans and bagpipes go together like haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes, respectively). The Highland Games and Festival isn’t just about feats of athletic prowess: the celebration boasts many components. Following is a schedule of the day’s planned activities:
• 8 a.m. – Gates open • 9 a.m. – Solo piping and drumming competitions begin • 9 a.m. – Dancing competitions begin • 9 a.m. – Athletics competitions begin • 9 a.m. – Hurling demonstration • 9:30 a.m. – Tug of war competitions begin • 10 a.m. – Entertainment • 11 a.m. – Sheep dog demonstrations • Noon – Opening ceremonies • 1 p.m. – Competitions resume • 1 p.m. – Tug of war final • 1:30 p.m. – Children’s sack race • 2 p.m. – Pipe band competitions begin • 3 p.m. – Sheep dog demonstration • 3:30 p.m. – Super caber event • 4:30 p.m. – Dunedin Stone event • 5 p.m. – Massed bands • 5:30 p.m. – Closing ceremony and award of prizes • 8 p.m. – Closing of gates
Following is a schedule of the day’s planned musical performances:
• Arvel Bird – 9 to 10 a.m., Pavilion Stage • Wyndbreakers – 10 a.m. to noon, Pipe Drone Pub • Marcille Wallis and Friends – 10 to 11 a.m., Pavilion Stage • Scottish Country Dancers – 11 to 11:30 a.m. • My Three Kilts – 1 to 4 p.m., Pipe Drone Pub • Arvel Bird – 1 to 2 p.m., Pavilion Stage • Marcille Wallis and Friends – 2 to 3 p.m., Pavilion Stage • Scottish Country Dancers – 3 to 4:30 p.m., Pavilion Stage • Lucid Druid – 4 to 7 p.m., Pipe Drone Pub • Jam Session – 7 p.m.
Arvel Bird, a violinist and Native American flutist, is known around the world for his dramatic connection between Celtic and Native American traditions, stirring up scenes that echo from North American memory.
His followers have dubbed Bird “Lord of the Strings.” His music evokes the soul of North American history and is thoroughly entertaining, but also enlightening and humanizing.
Wyndbreakers play Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland – from traditional to Celtic rock, from fiddle and flute to electric guitar and drums. Members include Ennis Pruitt, guitar, whistle, mandolin, banjo, flute, spoons and bodhran; Craig Thomas, fiddle, keyboards, flute and recorders; and Steve Brewer, percussion.
Native Floridian Marcille Wallis is a classically trained pianist who began her musical studies at age 6.
Using her polished skills and talent she added the guitar and eventually the hammer dulcimer as well as other folk instruments to her repertoire. A full-time professional hammer dulcimer player, she now tours the country entertaining at fairs, festivals, churches, concerts, pubs, bookstores, workshops and private functions.
Combining traditional Celtic influences and instrumentation with punk rock influences, ideals and attitude, My Three Kilts play a unique brand of Celtic/Pub/Punk. Their shows are punctuated with blasts of music and interactions with the audience.
Rounding out this year’s musical guests is Tampa Bay’s own Lucid Druid formed in late 2003.
Highlighting the original music of renowned composer and two-time World Champion piper, Adam Quinn, the band integrates bagpipes, guitar and bass with a variety of traditional African and Scottish drums, creating a sound that is energetic, ground breaking and truly unique.
The inclusion of live traditional and Celtic rock music adds to the appeal of Dunedin’s annual showcase of Scottish culture in an event designed to raise funds to support the three bands of Dunedin, including the City of Dunedin Pipe Band, the Dunedin High School Scottish Highlander Band and the Dunedin Highland Middle School Band.
Over the years, many honors have been showered upon Dunedin’s three Scottish bands. According to the event website, the bands have performed throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Band members have helped strengthen the bonds between Dunedin and the ancestral home of many of the city’s pioneers.
Of course, attendees need not be Scottish to enjoy the festival.
“I hope people have fun and enjoy the spectacle and color of the event,” McHale said. “I hope they acknowledge that we have something for everyone including the kids. And, also, that we are now trying to bring a better class of competitor in every aspect of the event.”
Pipe Band March
Hundreds of pipers will march through downtown Dunedin on Friday, April 4, 6 p.m.
The procession will be colorful, loud and amazing as the city welcomes a variety of pipe bands as a way to set the stage for the Dunedin Highland Games & Festival, on Saturday, April 5.
Participating bands will include the North Atlanta Pipes & Drums, St. Thomas Episcopal School from Texas, Harp & Thistle Pipe Band, Atlanta Pipe Band, Jacksonville Pipes & Drums, Rosie O’Gradys Highlanders, Dunedin High School Scottish Highlander Band, Dunedin Highland Middle School Band, and the City of Dunedin Grades 3, 4 and 5 Pipe Bands.
After the march, the annual Tartan reception will be presented at the Hale Activity Center on Douglas Avenue, also in downtown Dunedin.
Local Celtic Band, Empty Hats, will be performing. Tickets are $25 each for meal, drink, and entertainment.