DUNEDIN — Cloaks, kilts and tartans will be on full display as the Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation presents the 53rd annual Dunedin Highland Games & Festival, set for Saturday, April 6, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Dunedin Community Center, 1920 Pinehurst Road, Dunedin.
According to the event website, this year’s games promise to be bigger and better with pipe bands, highland dancers and athletes from around the world participating in events and competitions. The annual celebration features music, food and drink imported from Scotland to Dunedin.
Festival hours will run from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Early bird tickets start at $15 a person plus service fee. VIP tickets are $90 plus service fee. VIP tickets include admission for one, reserved VIP seating, VIP lounge access, food and unlimited beer, wine and soda. Tickets are available on www.eventbrite.com. General admission tickets also can be purchased in person at the Celtic Shop of Dunedin, 354 Main St., for cash only.
For complete event information, visit dunedinhighlandgames.com.
The event is expected to attract hundreds of competitors vying for awards in Scottish heavy athletics as well as highland dancing, solo piping and drumming and pipe bands. There also will be a 5K Highland Trail Run. A full schedule of entertainment will be presented on two stages. In addition, there will be a Kidz Zone with mini-games for children, a selection of Celtic foods and shopping and craft and domestic beers, wine and cider. Attendees will have an opportunity to visit more than 30 Scottish clans and society to research their heritage.
Overseeing this massive annual endeavor is the Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation – formerly the Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Committee.
The foundation works to support the Scottish heritage and culture of Dunedin through the visual and performance arts of dancing, piping, drumming and athletics. The event was created more than half a century ago to raise funds to support the three bands of Dunedin: The City of Dunedin Pipe Band, The Dunedin High School Scottish Highlander Band, and The Dunedin Highland Middle School Band.
Helping to make the annual event run smoothly takes dozens of volunteers, according to Gary Smith. Smith oversees the volunteers.
“This year we have approximately 240 volunteer positions for the festival, which include helping a couple of weekdays prior to the event to set things up, on the day of the event, and the break down and clean up after the event is over,” Smith explained. “The number of volunteers has been streamlined as things have been fine-tuned; however, as the event grows there is a reflective increase in the number of positions to be filled.”
The impact of the volunteers cannot be understated.
“The games and festival couldn't work without the help of volunteers,” Smith said. “The event is put on by the nonprofit Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation, whose members take on the bulk of running the event, but without volunteers it wouldn't be able to succeed in its goal of helping the community. All of the profits are used to assist in the Dunedin Scottish Arts programs and the Dunedin middle school and high school band programs, which rely heavily on these events for sustainability. Without volunteers willing to give back to the community with their time and talent, the event wouldn't be what it is today and couldn't provide for the benefit of those programs.”
Smith said he could still use more volunteers for this year’s event.
“As of today there are still several volunteer positions waiting to be filled,” he said. “There is no deadline, and we often have volunteers sign up on the day of the event if there are openings. In return for a few hours of time, our volunteers gain free entry into the event, a volunteer T-shirt, and free beverage of their choice.”
Volunteer registration is available through the Sign Up Genius website. To access it, visit dunedinhighlandgames.com and click on Volunteer beneath the Contact tab.
“We utilize Sign Up Genius for enrolling volunteers because it assists in organizing everyone and keeping track of vacancies, as well as giving an avenue to communicate with everyone to pass along details and information to assist in running everything smoothly,” Smith explained. He reiterated the fact that walk-up volunteers may also find a spot the day of the event. “As stated previously, there are people who show up on the day with the desire to volunteer, and if there is an opening, oftentimes it's a great benefit to both parties.”
The Scottish heavy athletics component of the Dunedin Highland Games will feature a number of events, such as:
• Caber toss
• Sheaf toss
• Hammer throw
• Stone throw
• Weight over bar
The athletic competitions will get underway at 8:30 a.m. The Highland Trail Run 5K will start at 9 a.m. The opening ceremonies will take place at 11:45 a.m., followed by the massed highland fling at noon, the Parade of Clans at 12:10 p.m., and national anthems and introductions at 12:30 p.m. Competitions will resume at 1 p.m.
This year’s musical entertainment will feature sets by Celtic Conundrum, The Brayzen Heads and Off Kilter.
Formed on the idea of playing music as culturally diverse as the crew one might find on a ship, a dock, or a pub by the port, Celtic Conundrum brings songs and instruments that came with them from the taverns of their home countries. The band has been known to play Celtic tunes and sea shanties as well as songs from Ireland, Scotland, and England, and the great colonies of America and Australia.
According to their Facebook page, The Brayzen Heads have been performing live since 2000. They have performed more than 4,000 shows throughout Europe and the United States. Between 2000 and 2011, Shane Farrell and Dave Gilmore played a nightly residency at the infamous Shamrock Bar, Spain. Since 2012, they have been playing and residing in the United States. They recently finished a three-year residency performing at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Disney Springs.
Farrell plays fiddle, banjo, mandolin and whistles. Gilmore plays guitars and sings vocals.
Off Kilter – a high-energy, progressive Celtic band that became a staple at Walt Disney World – blends many hard-driving musical styles, bringing a new twist to Celtic music.
For 20 years, Off Kilter performed regularly at Epcot’s Canadian Pavilion, harvesting a loyal fan base with their grab-bag of “rocked-up” traditional Celtic tunes, familiar rock and roll with a Celtic twist and original material that incorporates the sound of bagpipes.
The band was formed in 1997. Members include Jamie Holton, piper and vocalist; Mark Weldon, bass player and singer; Scott Zymowski, drummer; Randy Holbrook, lead guitar; and Jason Thomas, fiddle.