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They came from all over to Paeroa. The atmosphere of the Paeroa’s 31st Highland Games and Tattoo this past Sunday, 11 February was one of great excitement and enjoyment.
 |  Tallis Austen  | 

The games are hosted every year in the Paeroa Domain and the event is known widely all over New Zealand. People travel from all over the country to attend the daytime and nighttime shows, which include the New Zealand Highland Heavyweight championship, and a spectacular evening Tattoo with varied and talented performances, The Tattoo is the only one of its kind put on in the entire country. It runs for three hours and it’s a beautiful snapshot of not only Scottish culture and heritage, but also of community.

Along with the main performances, part of the focus of this year was also building up the daytime attractions like the clan village, where different Scottish clans have displays of their heritage and information for those interested.

It’s a wonderful family day out in the clan village. There are stalls selling things handmade leather wares to wood-burned art. Various people from local steampunk clubs can be seen walking around in their elaborate costumes. There are food trucks and variety performances, clowns, people on stilts, in every direction are a number of wonderful attractions on which to feast your eyes and taste buds.

Children under 15 go free in the games. A $20 adult ticket will get you 12 whole hours of fun and that price includes everything, making it an affordable day out for young families through to retired couples alike.

Wonderful Scottish flavour

Neville King, who has been involved with the event for 28 years now, says, “We do this because of the families, the people. It’s going to cost a person $20 for a whole 12 hours of entertainment – you just don’t get that anywhere else. That’s part of what makes this event special so special.”

There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that goes into the Highland Games every year, as with anything local like this in a relatively small town like Paeroa, everyone’s a volunteer. There’s so many dedicated hours that go into the event and volunteers work tirelessly and passionately in their areas of expertise.

From assembling the iconic highland games castle backdrop to taking the tickets and greeting people at the entrance, everyone has their own important task that helps this beloved event run the way it does.

Jo Tisley, who deals with communications, and public concerns on the day said “It’s a lot to pull together and be on top of, but it’s a high trust model. We trust that everyone’s on top of their stuff and everyone works together.”

Neville King said of the volunteers and the highland games committee; “You know, by the end of today we’ll all probably want to kill each other, but tomorrow, we’ll get on with it and start planning for next year.

“This is about people, and it’s about the greater community, and that’s why, at the end of the day, we keep doing it. The  smiles on peoples faces make it all worth it.”

The event is now in its 31st year, and it is pretty impressive.

However, it came from humble beginnings. They started with amateur events, where anyone local who could do virtually anything, performed.

It’s recalled with amusement that they used to light a hoop on fire and a local policeman would jump his horse through it!

In the early days there was virtually no entry fee.

Instead volunteers used to go around with a blanket and people would throw in money as donation, they’d make just enough to cover the costs. Though the budget for the games has certainly grown since then, and it now attracts visitors from all over the country, the core values of family, affordability, culture, and community have all stayed the same.