All Highland Games events, except the road races, will be at the new location at Canada’s Outdoor Park

The Zorra Caledonian Society is finalizing plans for the 81st Embro Highland Games, taking place July 1 at the new location, Canada’s Outdoor Park 744906 Oxford Road 17, Woodstock.

Gates open at 8 a.m. and there is a full line-up of family-friendly activities.

For guests wanting to take in some true Scottish culture, the Highland dance competition and the massed pipe bands (12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.) will not disappoint. There are currently 10 pipe bands registered, including one from Flint, Michigan.

In keeping with the theme, a wide variety of Scottish concessions on site offer Scottish jewelry, food, tartan clothing, and Celtic arts and crafts and more.

New this year, the licensed area will feature local craft brew – Upper Thames Brewing Co. Woodstock) and Junction 56 Distillery (Stratford).

The Ontario Heavy Events Championships features professional male and female athletes from across the province vying for top honours. Also new this year, former Olympian, Sultana Frizell, who competed for Canada in the Olympic hammer throw in both the Beijing, China (2008) and London, England (2012) Olympics will compete in the women’s events.

The popular Tug of War competition is back and will have its own dedicated “pitch” for the day. In addition to local teams, a team from Mount Vernon, Wisconsin will attend. New this year the Rugby Sevens make a debut at the Games with youth, women’s and men’s teams competing from across Southwestern Ontario.

For those animal enthusiasts, the Scottish livestock area has really expanded and will include five breeds of cattle (Highland & Ayrshire return), two breeds of horses and two breeds of sheep. The sheep herding demonstrations and the dog agility shows will run continuously all day. The fun and educational Scottish Dogs on Parade will take place at 9:30 a.m., just after the new… Kilted Yoga at 9 a.m.

This is only the second time in 81 years the Games will be held on a Sunday, so Rev. Bill White from London will be preaching the 10 a.m. church service. Later, Steve MacDonald will be giving two lectures “So You Think You Know Everything about Scotland?” The Toronto Taiwanese Community Choir will be performing several entertaining numbers on stage. Are your roots in Sutherlandshire, Argyllshire, Roxboroughshire or Golspie? Locate your family’s place of origin by putting a pin on the map in the historical display.

In the afternoon, Allison Lupton, Ian Bell and Dan MacDonald perform live Celtic and Canadian music on the farm wagon. Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the children’s Scottish crafts and outdoor games always engage and entertain the wee visitors as they embrace and create with Scottish culture in mind. Ten Scottish clans will participate at the Games this year rounding out a full day of family fun with a Scottish flare.

Parking at the Games is free and gate admission (cash only) is $20 for adults $10 for youth (13-17 years) and children 12 and under no charge. All guests are welcome to bring a lawn chair.

Not moving are the two, five and 10 km road races that will remain at the Embro Zorra Community Centre on familiar roads for the several hundred runners who compete.

The Zorra Caledonian Society was founded in 1937 and is a community organization of volunteers dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the Village of Embro and the Township of Zorra. Their signature event, the Embro Highland Games, brings in thousands of visitors every Canada Day to Oxford County.