Sunny weather, record caber toss attracts 30,000 to Fergus Scottish Festival

It’s unofficial for now, but organizers of the Scottish Festival and Highland Games are confident the Guinness World record for the largest simultaneous caber toss will stand at 52.

And as volunteers cleaned up the sight around the Sportsplex that hosted the three-day festival, organizing committee president David Radley could look back at a successful event that drew some 30,000 people.

“It was a good weekend,” Radley told the Advertiser the day after the festival closed down. “The weather cooperated and people seemed happy.”

At Friday evening’s Tattoo the record was set with 58 competitors, pros and amateurs, tossing cabers. The first attempt saw 51 successful cabers tossed and the second 52. It’s the second time such an event has been attempted, with last’s year’s caber toss at the festival of 49, falling short of the Guinness World Record of 50. Friday’s Tattoo attracted record crowds to the main field to see the caber toss attempt and take in the pomp and pageantry that has become associated with the games over its 69-year history.

Veteran competitor and former director Warren Trask said the result saw a different approach with competitors, some who were novices to caber tossing, trained prior to the attempt. Trask said organizers wanted to get together 60 people to toss the caber, but found it was difficult to assemble enough people with experience.

“To try and pull 60 people together who can do it is difficult,” he said.

Among the first time caber tossers was Elora Hometown Realty owner Matthew Bennett-Monty.

“I was a sponsor so I thought I’d throw,” Bennett-Monty told the Advertiser after the record-setting toss.

Festival organizers also enlarged the field where the toss took place by 60 feet to ensure safety with spectators.

Festival sponsorship manager Bruce Lloyd said the record toss and overall festival was boosted by strong crowds throughout the sunny weekend.

“It was a phenomenal night,” he said of the record. “On the first throw they got 51 and then on the second throw they got 52. That was phenomenal.”

“We got 52 out of 58,” Radley said of the ratio to achieve the record.

Radley said a video and information on the record attempt was on its way to Guinness. Reverend Kevin Fast, a 19-world-title holder in a variety of highland game events, originally suggested the festival attempt the record and convinced Guinness officials to sanction it.

Games competitor John Jans also acknowledged the teamwork needed to pull the record off. That included having to cut additional 60-foot cabers prior to competition.

“There were a lot of people here who had never thrown before,” he said after the record was announced.

Radley and Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj helped verify the number after each toss.

The mayor said she attended the practice session.

“When we were watching them practice it was amazing how everyone was helping,” she said of the cooperation between the novices and veterans.

She credited the volunteers with putting on an “all encompassing”    and games.

Brad Coxford, an amateur highland competitor who made the trek from Toronto, said he made the trip to purchase of copy of David Webster’s book “World History of Highland Games.” Coxford didn’t compete this year because he had little time to practice prior to it taking place.

Webster, a well-known expert in highland competition, also served as the festival chieftain.

Trask said it’s expected there will be another record attempt at the upcoming Masters Games in Inverness, Scotland in September. As for the Fergus attempt’s verification, he said, that could take up to eight weeks.

For additional photos, click here.