Dawson City to host first Highland games in 113 years

The newly-formed Top of the World Highland Games will take place June 15-17 in Dawson. It will be the first highland games to be held in the former capital since 1899.

It has been over a century since a Highland games competition has been held in Dawson City. That long hiatus comes to an end next month.

The newly-formed Top of the World Highland Games will take place June 15-17 in Dawson. It will be the first Highland games to be held in the former capital since 1899.

On top of well-known events like the caber toss and hammer throw, the games will also feature bagpipes, drumming and Scottish dancing.

“Eighteen months ago a couple of friends and I got together and thought, ‘What can we do for Dawson City, create a new event for Dawson City?” said president Sally Derry. “We really haven’t had anything new for a long time.

“I traveled to the world masters championships in Calgary last year and the year before I was at the Canadian nationals, and I literally walked into the tent with my Dawson City brochures and I said, ‘Hi,

I’m Sally from the Yukon, and we’re thinking about putting a highland games on. If we did, would you come?’ And they all went, ‘Sure!’”

So far, five professional Highland games athletes have come on board to compete at the Dawson event. However, organizers want to get Yukoners to sign-up to compete, even if they’ve never tossed a caber in their lives.

To help prepare newcomers, the visiting pros will hold a clinic on the Friday before the start of the competition.

There will also be a corporate tug-of-war competition at the games open to Yukon businesses.

The five professionals are big guys, averaging over six feet, two inches, and over 265 pounds.

They include Calgary’s Rob Young, the 2009 North American Amateur Caber Champion; Gregory Bell, from Issaquah, Washington, who holds two Alaskan Highland games records; John Oden from Kelso, Washington, who captured first in the professional category at the 2010 Victoria Highland Games; and Matthew Doherty of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who has posted three top-five finishes at the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation nationals.

“I have a couple athletes coming out of the states and these are world-class athletes,” said Derry. “In this area they are known all over the world. They are going to go back and spread the word of the wonderful time they had and how unique we are.”

The Top of the World Highland Games will be a biennial event, with the following games taking place in 2014. Prizes include nuggets of gold donated by local miners.

“We’ve been working with the Alaska games too,” said Derry. “One of the reasons why we’re (holding the games) in June is (the Alaskan games) go two weeks after us. So, potentially down the road, we’ll end up like a little circuit.”

More information and registration can be found at topoftheworldhighlandgames.ca.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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