Organizers are hoping for a positive public reaction to the return of the Halkirk Highland Games

Chief Viscount Thurso (front, right) and Chairman Alistair Swanson (front, left) leading the march from the center of Halkirk to the playground in 2019. Photo: Ann-Marie Jones/Northern Studios

The Halkirk Highland Games – one of the best and most popular on the Scottish circuit – will take place this weekend for the first time in three years.

The event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but returns to the leisure park on Saturday and organizers hope the varied program will draw exceptional crowds.

Chairman Iain Mackenzie is confident there will be a positive public reaction, although he admits it’s “a bit scary” to stage the games for the first time since 2019.

“It’s also a good feeling, and now it’s time to get back to playing,” he said. “I think people will want to spend a day outside.”

The total prize money will be over £37,000, while three Scottish Championship medals will be on offer – in the 16lb and 22lb hammers and the 800m cycling event.

With such generous funds available, the games are bound to attract a group of top athletes who will compete for a total of 50 trophies and a share of the prize money.

One of the big attractions is the heavyweight events, which invariably generate fierce competition between local, national and often international athletes.

Heavyweight athletes can pick up £1000 for a world record in the 16lb and 22lb hammers, 16lb ball, 22lb Halkirk stone, 28lb shot put for distance, 56lb shot put for the distance and the weight of 56 lbs for the height.

Additionally, there will be £500 for setting a floor record and £200 for a Caithness record.

The heavyweights receive a top prize of £400 in each of their nine events, £250 for second place, £150 for third place, £100 for fourth and £75 for fifth.

Along with the excitement of the intense competition, there will be plenty to entertain the audience.

Cycling action at the 2019 Halkirk Highland Games, the last time the event took place. Photo: Ann-Marie Jones/Northern Studios

Cycling is likely to provide plenty of close combat, while athletics competitions are again expected to see intense rivalry between competitors from Caithness and those from outside the county.

The various activities will keep the public spellbound during a busy day that will begin with the piobaireachd competition from 10:30 am.

The Grand March of the Bridge Street Pipe Band takes place at noon and the ceremonial opening will be performed at 12.15pm by the Chief of Games, Viscount Thurso.

While the competitive elements of the games are still an integral part of the proceedings, there are also shows and entertainment to ensure that visitors and locals enjoy the occasion. Along with heavyweight, athletics, cycling, bagpipes and highland dancing events, there will be plenty of other activities to enjoy.

These include skeet shooting, children’s races and baby show as well as a variety of novelty attractions including a kilt race. In total, nearly 100 events will be organized during the day.

There will also be funfair attractions and stalls selling crafts and produce. Musical entertainment will be provided by Wick and Thurso Bagpipes throughout the afternoon and on Bridge Street at 7.30pm.

Mr Mackenzie said: “We have a limited edition Halkirk Games Gin made this year by North Point Distillery. They are making 300 individually numbered bottles which will be on sale during games at the North Point Distillery stand.

“The Gunn Clan is also hosting its 20th international gathering at the games this year with approximately 60 members from around the world. Clan Leader Iain Gunn of Gunn will be there.”

Mr Mackenzie stressed that entry to the games and the dance, as well as all drinks at the bar, will be cash only, as the organizers do not have the option of paying by card.

The first Halkirk Highland Games, organized by the Halkirk Athletic Club, took place in 1886 next to the newly built Gerston Distillery, moving to a field near Hoy railway station before finally settling in the amusement park in 1921. The first 16 events grew to almost 100 and the prize money was the highest of any game in Scotland.

The professional organization and the warm welcome attract competitors and visitors from all over the world.

Full commentary on the various events will be provided throughout the afternoon.

To complete the entertainment, a dance under the marquee will take place at the leisure park at 10 p.m. with music by Eclipse.

Adult tickets for the games cost £8, seniors £5 and schoolchildren £3. Parking will be free.

Everything is looking good for yet another successful show. Mr Mackenzie added: ‘All we need now is good weather on Saturday.

Vlad Tulacek of the Czech Republic in one of the hammer events in Halkirk three years ago.  Photo: Ann-Marie Jones/Northern Studios
Vlad Tulacek of the Czech Republic in one of the hammer events in Halkirk three years ago. Photo: Ann-Marie Jones/Northern Studios

This is the time when families come together to celebrate and friends return to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Games Day.

Halkirk Games leader Viscount Thurso said it was “an immense and special pleasure” to welcome people back to the gathering for the first time since the onset of Covid.

Writing in the foreword to the games programme, he says: “For over a hundred years the Halkirk Games have been a highlight of the Caithness summer and have become one of the premier Highland Games in Built on years of tradition, it continues to improve and innovate every year.

“Competitors come from all over Scotland and abroad to compete for the generous prizes and this fierce competition creates a great event for spectators. Yet at heart the games remain a family and village affair. is the time when families come together to celebrate and friends return to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of a day of play, a day when the children’s race and the babies’ competition are of equal importance. at international competitions. Above all, it is a day of pleasure.

He adds: “The success of the games is possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for which we are very grateful. However, it is the hard work and organizational skills of the committee that meets and plans throughout the year, and undertakes all the work before, during and after the Games to ensure that the day runs smoothly, which makes the Games the success that it is.

“I thank them for all their hard work, but it is above all the support of visitors and locals that makes the day of the games the great occasion that it is, and especially this year, I thank everyone for all your support and wish you a pleasant return for the Halkirk Games 2022.”

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