The 20th Aberdeen Highland Games attracts thousands to Jefferson Park

JEFFERSON Park in Aberdeen was a sea of tartan on Saturday as thousands of people flooded through the gates to enjoy a traditional Celtic experience.

The echoing of Scottish bag pipes accompanied by highland and country dancing, kilted warriors and lassies and laddies dressed to impress were all part of the atmosphere at the 20th annual Aberdeen Highland Games.

A crowd favourite, the traditional Celtic strongman competition, was a display of tremendous strength and determination.

Kilted warrior Andrew Fraser from Tumut, New South Wales, took out first place after a grueling three events.

"The athletes compete in three traditional events: a series of stones called the Stones of Manhood, the Sheaf Toss and the Caber Toss," he explained.

A test of pure strength, the competitors must begin by lifting stones of increasing weights (between 100 and 165 kilograms) off the ground and onto barrels.

Fraser came first in the event after lifting the stones the fastest.

Next came the Sheaf Toss, a traditional Scottish agricultural sport involving a pitchfork to hurl a wheat bag weighing about 20 pounds over a horizontal bar above the competitor's head.

Fraser, who was a first time competitor in this event, came third, with Blake Ashmore picking up second place and Kurt Livens coming away with first place.

The competition finished with the Caber Toss, where competitors throw a large wooden pole (the caber) typically weighing 79 kilograms.

Fraser won this event after pulling off the best throw, securing his place as winner of the competition.

Another crowd favourite was the highland dancers from Gunnedah and the Valley School of Dancing in Lithgow.

The Games' president Charles Cooke was extremely pleased with the tremendous turnout for the committee's 20th year, with visitors coming from places like Sydney, Newcastle, Maitland and Townsville.

Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen, who was the MC of the event, said the day was a wonderful celebration of Scottish heritage and culture.

"Aberdeen and the Upper Hunter needed this injection of fun and spending in our local economy and the 20th anniversary of the Aberdeen Highland Games is a fitting time to come come together, forget our troubles for a day and focus on fun," he said.

While many came to simply soak up the Scottish atmosphere, the day brought in a lot of people with Scottish backgrounds who spent time talking to clan societies and picking up the threads of their family histories.