City prepares for Inverness Highland Games and gala

This weekend will see the Inverness Highland Games & Gala festivities take place at Bught Park.

Building work is now well underway on the giant arena, will be the hub of this weekend’s event

Traditionally staged on one of the busiest weekends of the year in the Highland Capital; this year’s programme sees the addition of two new major events with Proud Ness, the Highland’s biggest ever Pride Event; and Ruff Ness, the world’s first ever “Highland Games for Dogs With Attitude” being added to the weekend for the first time.

The festivities will commence on Friday 19 July at 6pm with performances in the Under Canvas Area on the lawn outside Eden Court Theatre featuring the City of Inverness Pipe Band; the Elizabeth Fraser School of Highland Dancing and members of the Inverness Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. This will be followed at 7pm by the regular Under Canvas Fringe Friday Show featuring Resident Dj Karawane and guests, while next door at 7.30pm the Highlands Strongest Man and Strongest Woman Championships will commence in the Northern Meeting Park.

Organised by the Forge Gym, the traditional Eve of Games strength show has proven very popular with tourists in recent years and always ensures that the Games & Gala weekend gets off to a rousing start. This year’s show will feature a number of muscle burning events and will climax with a car lifting challenge which looks set to be one of the highlights of the weekend.

For many spectators, the traditional events at a Highland Games are an unmissable part of any trip to Scotland. On Saturday at Bught Park another day of excellent competition in the Highland Dancing, Solo Piping and Heavy Events is forecast. Heavies Champion Jamie Gunn is scheduled to return to defend his title against Americans Luke Crowley (Wisconsin), Kevin Becker (Texas) and Wayne Taylor (North Carolina). In the Women’s Heavy event, Elizabeth Howerton (North Carolina) and Katie Crowley (Wisconsin) are competing and the Games Committee has issued an invitation for Scottish athletes to join them on the day. As usual the day will end with the Heavies attempting an event which featured at Games of 1822.

The Stonemason’s Stone weighs 252 pounds and always generates the biggest cheer if any of the Heavies have enough strength left at the end of an exhausting day of competition to lift it cleanly over a bar suspended at 5 feet. Less than a dozen athletes have been able to complete the task to date; although many have travelled to Inverness to try. A decision will be made on the day if a Ladies version of the Stonemason’s Stone will be introduced to the programme.

During the Opening Ceremony, which will feature performances by Prima Dance and the Pipe Bands; the Games Committee have announced that they will mark the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Inverness Royal British Legion Pipe Band by inducting the entire band into the Games’ Hall of Fame. The Legion Band will be the first group to be added to the Hall and the award will be presented by Guest of Honour Lieutenant Colonel Peter Beaumont, commanding officer of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) who are making a welcome return to the Inverness Games.

The 19th Regiment will be just one of the attractions in the Military Village in a packed showfield that will contain the Show and Shine Car Show, Scotland’s Biggest Inter Clan Gathering, the Exclusively Highlands Craft Fair, a full programme of traditional music and Scottish Country Dancing in the Gathering Tent, Horne’s Fun Fair, the Mascot Madness Inflatable City; the giant Games Day Traders Village and the Solo Piping and Highland Dancing arenas.

At the suggestion of the Inverness Youth Forum, and certain to prove very popular with young families, the Games Committee has announced that all Under 12’s will be admitted free of charge to this year’s Games; and to support this initiative and all the other free events staged in the city will be launching its very own fundraising Lottery called Thrifty50. All the proceeds from the Lottery will be used to support the city’s free events programme; and it is hoped that the Lottery will become a regular and exciting feature at events organised by the Council in the months ahead.

After an overnight transformation from its Games Day layout; Sunday’s Gala Showfield will open at 12 Noon when the Exclusively Highlands Craft Fair, Traders Village and Funfair reopen. The day will start with a Junior Shinty Festival in the main arena organised by Inverness Shinty Club before all eyes will turn towards the Riverside and the arrival of participants in what could be one of the biggest parades seen in Inverness for many a year.

Following the success of October’s inaugural Proud Ness, the Games Committee has worked closely with the Proud Ness volunteers to design an event which would enable the volunteers to accommodate the thousands of folk who have indicated that they wished to take part in the second large scale LGBT event ever staged in the Highlands. The Proud Ness event at Bught Park will commence at 2pm and feature exhibitions by over 40 groups supporting the Highland LGBT community, speeches and the Inverness Gigs Presents Showcase featuring host Venus Guy-Trap, DJ Alottarythmman, Ant Collesso, The Roov and Table for Four. The Pride Parade to Bught Park will start from Crown Primary School at 1pm and will travel through the city centre along the banks of the River Ness to Eden Court Theatre where they will be joined by folk who may find walking the full parade route challenging and competitors in a brand new event which is to be introduced specially for dogs and their owners.

Ruff Ness is scheduled to take place in the main stadium at Bught Park at 2pm on Sunday afternoon after the Gala Day Junior Shinty Festival. Ruff Ness will feature a Fancy Dress Parade and a number of fun competitions which have been tested with varying degrees of success and laughter. Billed as the World’s First Highland Games for Dogs with Attitude; hopes are high that it will quickly become established as an Inverness Family favourite. The Inverness Gala will close at 5pm.

Games Chieftain Provost Helen Carmichael said: ‘Our expanded Games and Gala Weekend programme is filled with activities and events for everyone to enjoy; and is the result of many months of work behind the scenes to create something very special indeed. I would like to thank the many local competitors, performers and volunteers for their tremendous efforts in helping our Games Committee and our city’s Events and Festivals Working Group to pull this all together. The weekend will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight the very best that we have to offer here in Inverness to locals and visitors alike while delivering a much appreciated boost to both our city’s profile and economy.’

To accommodate the large crowds expected over the weekend a number of temporary road restrictions and restrictions for pedestrians and cyclists over the Infirmary Bridge will be in place.

Tickets for the Highlands Strongest Man and Strongest Woman Show cost £3 with under 12s admitted free. Tickets for the Inverness Highland Games cost £10 Adults & £5 for seniors and students. Admission to Gala Sunday featuring Proud Ness and Ruff Ness is free.