If you hear the sound of bagpipes wafting over the Valley on Saturday morning, answer their call to the Highland Games.
The 18th annual Comox Valley Highland Games are taking place on May 18 at Lewis Park in Courtenay. In this beautiful setting along the river’s edge, you can almost imagine yourself transported to Scotland itself while you enjoy a full day of highland festivities.
Pipe and drum bands, highland dancers and heavy events athletes are all getting ready to compete and entertain. Vendors are preparing their merchandise and menus. And the Westies are warming up for their walk.
The day kicks off with a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. The smell of pancakes and sausages cooking is hard to resist. You’ll want to dig in and get fortified for a great day.
Dancing begins with the youngest dancers at 9 a.m. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Bring along your own chair — or grab a seat on the bleachers and enter into their excitement.
Throughout the morning, you’ll see many dances you know — such as the highland fling and the sword dance — and others you may not. There will be costumes and music changes, great leaps, tight footwork and even the occasional sword being kicked.
In the afternoon, the intermediate and premier level dancers will take to the stage, including a number who compete internationally. The high of their jumps and grace of their dancing is wonderful to watch. During the day, there will be more than 150 dancers participating in the Games.
At the other end of the park, the individual piping and drumming competition begins at 9:30 a.m. Musicians from B.C. and Alberta as well as Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii have all registered to take part.
Scattered around the north end of the park, you will see pipers and drummers meet with judges individually and in small groups. Competitors range from beginner to professional, children through adult. Your feet will likely feel compelled to tap to the beat as you watch and listen.
The heavy games begin at 10:30. These events are a favourite for many.
Many competitors, men and women, will engage in such events as the hammer throw, putting the shot and the caber toss. And they do it while wearing their kilts.
Great entertainment — and who knows? You might even have the opportunity to try it.
After watching the heavy events, you might want to stroll over to the beer gardens and lift a pint in honour of the athletes. The beer gardens open at 11 a.m.
The Westie Walk is becoming a very popular part of the Games.
Westies and their humans, along with other highland breeds gather at the Airpark before walking over to Lewis Park to join the Games. They are met by pipers and dancers at the Sid Williams Theatre fountain at 1 p.m., and escorted down the hill to join the Games. Pipe bands begin their competition at 2:30. This year, seven bands have registered to compete at different levels.
The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, and the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band will be joined by the White Spot Band as well as bands from Kamloops, Powell River and the Comox Valley. Many of these bands have competed in, and won world championships. It always a thrill to listen to them under the open sky of Lewis Park.
One of the most anticipated parts of the day is when all of the bands unite for the massed bands at 4:30 — always an exhilarating finale to a wonderful day.
The Highland Games take place in all forms of weather — so come prepared. Bring along a chair if you wish, a healthy appetite, and your sense of adventure as you prepare to take in the 18th annual Comox Valley Highland Games.
Volunteers are needed to help with setup and takedown for the Games. If you are able to give a few hours of your time, you will be rewarded with a warm welcome.
To volunteer, or for more information, call Claire at 250-339-2208.
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8 – 10 a.m. — Pancake breakfast, Knights of Columbus booth.
9 — Dancing begins.
9:30 — Heavy events registration.
10:30 — Heavy events begin.
11 — Beer garden opens.
1 p.m. — Westie Walk arrives at park from Sid Williams Theatre fountain.
1:30 — Dancing resumes.
1:50 — Pipe band competition begins.
4:30 — Massed bands.
— Comox Valley Highland Games