One of the most anticipated events of the Inverness Summer Festival takes place on Saturday when the Inverness Highland Games and Inverness Armed Forces Day celebrations combine for the first time to create one of Scotland's biggest Gatherings of the year.
Thousands of spectators are expected to gather from 10am to witness the first Highland Games staged in Northern Meeting Park since 1948 and thousands more will arrive after lunch as the giant Armed Forces Day Parade featuring nine Pipes and Drums bands and over 800 serving personnel and veterans march down the High Street and across Ness Bridge to join in the celebrations.
In order to facilitate the two combined events and also avoid disruption to the preparations for the Inverness Tattoo which starts 48 hours later; arrangements have been made for Saturday's show to take over the Northern Meeting Park and The Highland Council HQ Car Park as well as the lawns of Eden Court.
Northern Meeting Park itself will be used to house the main Highland Games Arena , which will be decorated with a gallery of Highland Games images and the giant Inverness Tattoo Castle. As well as the heavy events, which look likely to feature the 2009 World Professional Champion Aaron Neighbour of Australia, the 2009 Masters World Champion Jason Young and the 2009 World Amateur Champion Sinclair Patience; the arena will feature athletics competing on a tight 250 metre track which Head Groundsman Mike McLeod has worked wonders to create. Accommodating the sprinters proved a little trickier until it was decided to offer athletes the chance to race over the 1948 distance of 100 yards.
Performing in the main arena during the course of the day will The Falcon Drummers, the Elizabeth Fraser Highland Dancers, the Edith Macpherson Highland Dancers and a group of traditional dancers from Austria.
The Highland Council Car Park will play host to a giant Traders Village and the stage at the west end will house the Highland Dancing competitions during the first part of the day and a top Traditional Music Showcase organised by Margo Maclennan from 3pm. This year's traditional music line up features The Caledonian Canal Ceilidh Trail Band, Box player Graeme Mackay and Fiddler Duncan Farquhar, Mandolin Player Donald Jack, Inverness Fiddlers, Skirlie, Canntariachd Gaelic Harmony singers, TMC Folk, Piper Rachael MacDonald, Accordionist Michael Maclennan and Clarsach Player Megan Kiln.
In an exciting break with tradition, the Waterside Hotel sponsored Solo Piping Competitions will this year be held on the lawns outside Eden Court Theatre and will feature some of the finest pipers in the north. This year's competitors have an added incentive to do well as one of the winners will be invited to represent Inverness Piping Society when the Inverness Highland Games goes on tour to Pamplona for the first time in October.
In order to accommodate the crowds that are expected to attend on Saturday, arrangements have been made for a giant car park to be created at Bught Park and three buses to be available to transport those spectators who would have difficulty strolling along the riverside. Disabled parking for the event will be located in the car park at the front of the Highland Council HQ building.
The Armed Forces Day celebrations will feature a Drumhead Service led by the Reverend Peter Howson following which the Lord Lieutenant Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Guest of Honour Major General Seymour Monro and Games Chieftain Provost Jimmy Gray will make the presentations. Included in the recipients will be members of the 51st Highland Division who 70 years ago fought at the Battle of St Valery En Caux.
Games Chieftain Provost Jimmy Gray said: "Saturday's Gathering promises to be a wonderful community gathering in the heart of Inverness. I am sure that the day is not only going to bring back many memories as the Games goes home to Northern Meeting Park; I am sure it's going to create many new ones as we celebrate the contribution made by our Armed Forces to our community over the years.”
Admission to Northern Meeting Park on Saturday costs £6 for adults and £3 for Seniors and the Under 18s. Under 5s are free. Car Parking at Bught Park costs £2.