Story and Images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
May 17,2014 Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Highland Games Association piped in the 151st year of celebration of the Highland Games and Celtic Festival on Saturday at Topaz Park in Victoria, BC.
The 151st celebration of the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival started Saturday afternoon at Topaz Park in Victoria, BC – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The weekend event, showcasing traditional Celtic and Scottish art, culture, music, dance and sporting events have been a Victoria tradition since 1864. Entertainment such as highland dancing, sheep herding, pipe band competitions, ethnic food, and even a whiskey school for those with the taste for something other than ale, ensured something for all ages.
Fans and family enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment with events and displays for all ages to participate in – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Crowds of people, in a true testament of the strong a vibrant Scottish heritage on Vancouver Island, attended the opening of the event Saturday afternoon as Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin, sporting traditional kilted garb, addressed games fans and families proclaiming the two day event open after introducing the main event professional and elite competitors of the Heavy Events competition.
Three Pipe Bands would play to officially start the games. Mayor Dean Fortin would open the two day event with a speech. – Erich Eichhorn (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Earlier in the day, under bright skies that a weather forecaster couldn’t even predict, fans where treated to Novice, Amateur Men’s and Women’s Masters events such as “Putting The Stone”, “Weight For Distance”, “Throwing the Hammer”, “Weight for Height”, and “Tossing The Caber”.
“Putting the Stone” this amateur competitor hurls his rock down field – Erich Eichhorn image(www.allsportmedia.ca)
2013 Canadian Champion Matt Doherty throws for distance in the professional divison as spectators look on – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
In the largest registered Heavy Event competition to date for VHGA, 70 competitors from across North America descended on Victoria to showcase their strength and skill. ISN had a chance to catch up with two of the more tenured competitors, Eric Wechter (21yrs ) and his wife Regina(14yrs), from Oregon, USA, and asked about the attraction to the sport. “ It’s cultural for me,” said Eric. “ I have the heritage through clan “”Muir””, so we traced my family history back. I went to my first games in 1993 to hear the bag piping. I didn’t even know that heavy events existed as a sport, but when I saw it I thought it looked awesome and I wanted to try it. After having my chance in the field, I loved it, and I’ve stuck with it ever since”.
Eric Wechter, shown here competing in the “Throwing for Distance”, would place first in the amateur division. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Highland competition can be a family event as well. Eric and Regina met at a competition, and now have two daughters that will compete in highland dancing, and perhaps bolster the ever-increasing female participation in the throwing events of the future. When asked about his first place performance Saturday, Eric would comment,” I was pretty pleased with my numbers today. I got some decent throws. We really don’t get the opportunity (with two young children) to practice back home, to work out like we should over the winter for a contest like this, so to come out here and not get hurt, have a good day, that’s the primary importance”.
Regina Wechter, wife of Eric Wechter, makes it a family competition as she “Throws for Height” – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
In the Elite and Professional Competition, things where noticeably more serious as competitors vied to not only win but set new personal and field record bests. As a testament to the quality of the completion that VHGA produces, the competition has attracted this year notable names such as Sidney local, 6’3 299 lb Adam Drummond (2013 Amateur BC Champion), USA’S Andy Vincent (2013 North American Champion), and 2013 CSAF Canadian Champion Matt Doherty, among other high profile names. Doherty holds the Canadian record in both for both the 16lb and 22lb Hammer and Braemar Stone throwing events.
Local professional competitor Adam Drummond of Sidney,BC appears to will his stone in an attempt to win the event – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Andy Vincent, the 2013 North American Champion, throws the light hammer for distance despite trouble with the footing – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Women’s Elite division featured afternoon, head to head competition between six strong competitors. Adrianne Wilson of South Carolina, Kate Burton, and Christy Scott lead the six women field. Wilson brings a 4-time World Champion resume, while Burton and Scott are ranked 2nd and 3rd in the world respectively.
Kate Burton, ranked #2 in the world, throws the light hammer – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Adrienne Wilson, a four-time world champion, would win this event, out-throwing her competition – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Competition is expected to be equally as tough Sunday as Heavy Events continue. Sunday afternoon’s professional competition will feature Open Stone, Heavy Hammer, Caber Toss, and the Keg Toss.
The Novice team poses after the awards were handed out Saturday afternoon – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Highland Games and Celtic Festival will wrap up Sunday with the Closing Ceremonies, Challenge Championship, Pipe Band and Dancing awards at 5:00 pm on the Upper Field.