Every year, in the second week of August, the pretty village of Ballater on Royal Deeside, plays host to 9 days of festivities. The event’s strapline “Be Amused” and the area’s Royal connections gives a clue to its heritage. First celebrated in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession and to raise funds for the refurbishment of the Victoria and Albert Halls, Ballater’s Victoria Week (BVW) brings together sections of the community to put on an impressive programme of events. This year’s fun filled Victoria Week runs from 7-16 August and offers a multitude of activities for all ages.

Ballater Duck Race

The appeal of BVW is such that is has a following of visitors who make the annual trip to Ballater from all parts of the country. Indeed some claim to have returned every year since the event started 28 years ago! Ballater Victoria Week has plenty of local support too from surrounding towns and villages such as Aboyne and Banchory. Like most community events, BVW relies on the hard work, time and commitment of an enthusiastic, energetic committee supported by many volunteers, fund raisers, advertisers and sponsors. Over the years BVW has raised thousands of pounds for local causes with profits being distributed among several local groups, organisations and charities.

So what is there to look forward to?

Highlights of the Week include established favourites such as the Scarecrow Competition and Trail; make a scarecrow on any theme, using any material and place it in a strategic point around the village. Or buy a ticket for the multi-coloured Duck Race; imagine a thousand plastic ducks bobbing along, each colour representing a specific fund-raising cause! Various species and breeds can be seen at the popular Pet Show on Mon 10th. Too tame? Then scare yourself silly with a Ghost Tour which happen most evenings at 10pm. Weird creatures of the human kind can be witnessed at the hilarious Pantomime Horse Trials. Entry is free – perform a set routine, go freestyle or simply enter the parade! Horsing around not for you? Then come along to a different kind of Parade on Sunday 9th. Every year a collection of classic and interesting vehicles follows the Ballater & District Pipe Band into the village; undoubtedly one of the highlights of BVW. A selection of other events to be enjoyed involve many sporting, artistic and community activities. Examples include; a Summer Fayre, Strawberry Tea, Book Fair, storytelling, film screenings (including an eagerly awaited screening of the new Minions film), a quiz, putting competition, bowling, ceilidh, family disco and Highland dancing.

Ghost Tours

The organisers of BVW try to keep things fresh by introducing new events each year, and this year’s quirks include a Teddy Bears’ Picnic (the TB’s parachute jump will take place another year…), a community art day, teen team challenge and teen disco, target golf and a “rumble in the jumble” kids’ fashion event for CLAN Cancer Support (followed by a fashion show and sale organised by the charity themselves).

Ballater Highland Games

Just as Highland dancing and a marching Pipe Band is fundamental to any Highland Games so too is Ballater Highland Games an integral part of the area’s summer calendar. Held annually on the second Thursday in August (13th this year), and right in the middle of Victoria Week, the Ballater Games www.ballaterhighlandgames.com/ is one of the oldest, top events of its kind. Be sure to take your camera! And next month, (5th Sept) the nearby Braemar Gathering www.braemargathering.org/ is another great spectacle which draws the crowds and attracts Royal watchers.

Perhaps this year, an even greater sense of community surrounds Victoria Week. In May, a fire ravaged Ballater’s historic Old Royal Station. The iconic railway station was used regularly by the Royal Family and guests visiting the area; indeed it is thought many of Europe’s royalty passed through Ballater station in the 19th century. The blaze ripped through the beautiful wooden structure destroying the Visitor Centre, a restaurant and a number of shops. As well as damaging the building, the fire has endangered a number of local businesses and jobs however Ballater has pulled together and is ‘open for business.’

Of course one way to help the community is by supporting Victoria Week. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Tickets for some events – and some duck colours – can be bought online; for most other events, tickets are available from the box office on the Green, as well as on the day, if not sold out. Many events are free and do not require tickets. Check out the brochure detailing all events, browse the programme at www.ballatervictoriaweek.co.uk/ or follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/ballatervictoriaweek  Event listings can be viewed also at http://visitcairngorms.com/index.php?id=292&f_month=2015-08&category=&town=Ballater

So what are you waiting for? Put the dates in your diary now and remember… “Be Amused”

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