INVERNESS is gearing up to play host to one of the biggest gatherings of the year this Saturday as the Highland Games returns to the Northern Meeting Park.
Since combining the city’s Armed Forces Day celebrations last year, the event is now one of the largest staged in Scotland and will commence with a parade through the streets of Inverness which will feature nine pipes and drums bands and hundreds of service personnel both past and present.
Included in the ranks for the parade, which has been organised by members of Inverness British Legion, will be sailors from the First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1), soldiers form Company 7 Scots and Airmen from RAF Kinloss who will be joining hundreds of members of the veteran and cadet organisations based in the Highlands.
The MCM1 Squadron, which has been given the honour of leading the parade, are based at Faslane under the command of Commander David Bence who was formerly the Commanding Officer of HMS Inverness, which prior to decommissioning in 2005 received the Freedom of the City of Inverness.
The parade will start at 1pm and will pass Inverness Town House where the salute will be taken by The Lord Lieutenant Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Provost Jimmy Gray and Honorary Air Commodore Major General Seymour Munro and Sir Alistair Irwin, President of the Royal British Legion Scotland.
The parade will then cross the River Ness before marching to Northern Meeting Park where a Drumhead Service conducted by Reverend Peter Howson will commence at 1.45pm and will be followed by the presentation of medals to veterans.
At the end of the presentation ceremony, the afternoon’s entertainment will commence with the 2011 Inverness Highland Games which will open with a mass Highland Fling organised by the Elizabeth Fraser and Edith Macpherson School of Highland Dancing who will be presenting a number of displays throughout the day in front of the main grandstand as part of an arena entertainment programme that will feature The Falcon Drummers and the Massed Pipes and Drums at 3.30pm and 4.30pm.
This year’s gathering will once again feature a number of activities taking place outside of Northern Meeting Park itself with the Waterside Hotel sponsored piping competitions taking place in the grounds of Eden Court Theatre and the giant Highland Council car park being used to accommodate a traditional music show and other attractions.
The year’s music show will see the debut of the newly formed Inverness Festivals Band at the Games. The Inverness Festivals Band is made up of young musicians who have been chosen from the very best of the students attending the Highland Council’s award winning traditional music classes to take part in the award winning summer rehearsal and performance programme organised by Margo Maclennan.
The athletics programme at this year’s Highland Games will start at 2.30pm and will once again feature races at the traditional distance of 100 yards as accommodating races at 100 metres was not a consideration when the walls of the world’s oldest Highland Games stadium were laid in 1864. The field programme has been expanded to include the return of the long jump following the construction of a new pit by head groundsman Mike Mcleod at the Glenurquhart Road end of the ground especially for the jumpers.
Also starting at 2.30pm will be the Heavy events which this year will feature a brand new 19 foot caber which has been brought in to challenge the world class field of heavies who have indicated they will be attending on the day.
Entry to the event costs £6 for Adults and £3 for concessions. Gates open at noon with a specially city centre Box Office being opened at Inverness Town House at 10am for those who wish to follow the parade.
Spectators are asked to note that entry to Northern Meeting Park will be via the gates in Ardross Street this year and that the main car park will be located in Bught Park from which a park and ride service will be running from 11am. The disabled car park for this event will be located at the front of the main Highland Council HQ on Glenurquhart Road.
Games committee chairman Angus Dick said: "We are really looking forward to a tremendous Gathering this year. The sight and sound of the Armed Forces Day parade heading to our Games last year was something to behold and we are looking forward to a day to remember with our friends in the Armed Forces".