Antigonish Highland Games – July 2012

The Place: Antigonish, Nova Scotia

The Treasure: 149th Highland Games

On Sunday we travelled to Antigonish to take in some of the Highland Games events – a first for either of us.

We had a rough idea where to go and the folks walking around in kilts confirmed we were on the right track. Parking was no problem even though there were loads of people going to the games.

The venue itself is much bigger than we’d anticipated. There were several stages for different levels of highland dance:

A large vendor area, a couple large areas for pipe and drums, with the last big area being for heavy events.

Heavy events, in my opinion, is the main attraction.

We arrived just in time to see the Sheaf Toss. There was ample seating available and visibility was excellent. Sheaf toss is, basically, using a pitchfork to throw a burlap bag stuffed with hay weighing about 15 pounds over a bar. The field record was in the area of 34 feet high and several of the competators made attempts at it but the record wasn’t to be beaten today.


Next up was the quintessential Highland Games event, the caber toss!

Caber toss is where the contestant balances a tapered log against them, gets a running start and tries to flip it to land on the opposite end to the one their holding and fall away from them at as close to a 12 o’clock position. Scoring is based on how close to that 12 o’clock position the caber lands. A typical caber is 19 feet long or longer and around 150lbs or more.


It’s an amazing feat of balance, agility and of course strength and to see it in person makes it that much more impressive.

After the caber toss came farmer’s walk. The walk involves a 200lb (or 220 lb) weight in each hand and 100 feet of track. Fastest wins. This event the opened up to anyone that wanted to sign up and would sign a waiver. Only one person took them up on it and he turned in a very respectable time of about 16 seconds.

However the winner’s time was under 8 seconds.


The final heavy event we got to see was the tug of war. This isn’t the tug of war you remember where the teams pulled until someone fell in to a pit of mud. This is a serious competition, timed at up to 15 minutes with a 5 minute over time if necessary. The tug of war gathered a huge crowd.


The match lasted over 13 minutes, most of it in a holding pattern designed to tired out the other team with a few pulls to gain a slight advantage on where the flag was. This did an excellent job of building up to when a team ‘goes for it’. I don’t want to spoil what happens but when it switches the whole crowd gets in to it. It was a very entertaining event!

After the tug of war the awards and trophies were handed out. There was some after events but unfortunately for us it was time to go.

Whether you live in New Scotland or are just visiting taking in a Highland Games is a great time. Friendly, family atmosphere, good food, good vendors, great entertainment.

Can’t wait till next year, the 150th year should be an amazing event.

If you want to see one this year the New Glasgow Festival of the Tartans is this coming weekend, July 19th to 22nd. 🙂

Also, look for more event pictures on our facebook page in the coming days! Something new we’re trying so we can give a more full view of the experience without bogging down the article. 🙂


Here is the current weather and a map to help you plan your trip:

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