New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton, Canada
“This is the most dangerous event for spectators,” announced a man sitting down in a lawn chair wielding a microphone. Quickly, I nestled myself behind a tree shielding my body as my head stretched around the corner to press the shutter release on my mounted camera as a man of Herculean proportions launched an Ancient hammer into the air.
This was my best attempt to capture photos and video at the New Brunswick Highland Games, an event held annually on the historic Government House grounds of the capital city of Fredericton, Canada.
Audrey and I were thrilled to cover this event which celebrates Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage. There was drumming, piping, dancing, singing and athletics. Men, nearly twice my size in weight, wearing kilts grabbed heavy objects grunting and groaning before hurling them impressive distances. Overall, it was an event that was truly a spectacle.
The games were divided into five sections throughout the Government House grounds: Athletics Field, Parade Square, Highland Dance Tent, Workshop Tents and Entertainment section.
Athletics Field: Heavy Events
The athletics field featured heavy events – what many consider to be the most integral part of the whole Highland Games. The following are the athletic events I witnessed:
Caber Toss: This was my favorite event where men lifted a long tapered pine pole upright with the intention of running forward to toss it in such a manner that it turns end over with the upper section striking the ground first. The goal is not to throw it the furthest or highest (unlike other events) but to have it situated as close to the 12 o’clock position as possible on an imaginary clock.
Scottish Hammer Throw: In the event athletes wield a round metal ball (weighing 16 to 22 pounds) attached to a shaft, feet in fixed position, with the goal or whirling it around one’s head for maximum distance.
Weight over the bar: With only one hand athletes toss a 56 pound handled weight over a horizontal bar. As the competition goes on, and as athletes drop out, the bar is raised higher until only one man is left standing.
The athletics were my favorite event at the Highland Games; however, coming in at a close second was the piping and drumming competitions. The bagpipes, a symbol of the games, were on fine display as were drums and other instruments. Other musicians also entertained crowds with fiddling, folk and other kinds of live musical performances.
If the heavy events were a display of brute power and athleticism, the dancing competition were a fine example of graceful coordination. It was a treat just to sit back and watch the women dance. The dancers were ultimately judged on their appearance, hand and feet positioning and execution of the intricate steps. One of the most fascinating variations was the sword dance.
As we wandered from one competition section to the next, the tents selling food caught my eye (or should I say my nose) on more than one occasion. Around noon, I finally ventured over to indulge in Haggis on a bun washed down with Irn Bru. It was the first time I had Haggis and Irn Bru since leaving Edinburgh nearly eight months ago and on a hot and humid day both tasted incredible.
Overall, it was a fun-centric three day event that I would recommend to anyone who is visiting Fredericton over the summer.
The following is a photo essay of my favorite photos from the New Brunswick Highland Games:
This is a shot of a talented French Acadian violinist performing at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton, Canada
A close up shot of a man playing the bagpipes at the Highland Games
A young red headed lady warming up by playing the bagpipes before the competition started at the Highland Games
A close up shot of the hands of a talented bagpipe performer
A family stopping at the concession stand to by Scottish foods such as Haggis and Irn Bru at the Fredericton Highland Games
A young man is crouching down to life the caber to an upright position before tossing it at the Highland Games
The New Brunswick Provincial flag and the Canadian National Flag at the Fredericton Highland Games
Scottish souvenirs for sale at the New Brunswick Highland Games held annually in Fredericton, Canada
A girl sits down to take a break while resting her hands on her face at the New Brunswick Highland Games
An impressive drumming performance at the Highland Games in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
A man with a distinct facial expression of physical strain as he tries to toss a heavy weight over his head.
A group of kilted young men and teenagers sit down on a picnic bench to enjoy some snack food at the New Brunswick Highland Games
A young man crouches down swinging a weight below his legs prior to releasing it in the air at the Highland Games in Fredericton
A group of men wearing kilts form in a circle to socialize at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton, Canada.
A man wielding an Ancient hammer swings it with maximum velocity over his head at the Highland Games.
Here you’ll notice the flex of the Ancient Hammer as it is being swung close to the grass at the New Brunswick Highland Games
Matt Doherty, one of the top Highland Games athletes in all of Canada, practices his Ancient hammer swing
Dirk Bishop, a veteran of the games, practicing for the Hammer toss at the Highland Games in Fredericton
A girl plays the bagpipe at the New Brunswick Games in Fredericton, Canada
A close up shot of the face of a man blowing into the bagpipes at the New Brunswick Highland Games held in Fredericton, Canada.
The College of Piping bagpipe and drum band from Prince Edward Island at the New Brunswick Highland Games.
A piping and drumming band taking a rest on the field at the Fredericton Highland Games in New Brunswick, Canada
A group shot of men wearing kilts at the New Brunswick Highland Games
Men sharing a laugh as the walk along the grass at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton
A band of bagpipers taking a rest before playing at the Highland Games in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
A spectator wearing a kilt snaps a photo at the Highland Games in Fredericton, New Brunswick
A lone man wearing a red kilt stands behind a band wearing different style kilts at the New Brunswick Highland Games
A man wearing a hat with a Canadian flag at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton
A man with a bushy red beard hurling a weight over his head at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton.
The New Brunswick Highland Games festival sign, Dartmouth Pipe Bad, Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps and the Saint John Pipe Group.
A mountain of a man prior to releasing the weight over his head at the Highland Games in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
An athlete at the New Brunswick Highland Games adjust his kilt belt prior to a competition
A close up shot of man bending down to pick up the handle of the weight toss at the New Brunswick Highland Games
A side angle shot of an athlete warming up for the weight for height event at the New Brunswick Highland Games
A perspective shot of a man training for the weight over height event at the Highland Games
The facial expression of a man mustering up strength to throw a weight over his head at the New Brunswick Highland Games
A man launching a caber into the air at the New Brunswick Highland Games in Fredericton, Canada
Matthew Doherty taking a break at the New Brunswick Highland Games in between athletic competition events.
A man lifting a caber vertically before throwing it at the Highland Games in New Brunswick.
A man tossing a caber prior to it flipping over at the New Brunswick Highland Games.
An athlete picking up the caber at the New Brunswick Highland Games.