Excitement for the Glengarry Highland Games, returning after two years of running virtually as a live event in Maxville on July 29-30, has reached a high.
“I’ve been excited since the decision was made to hold the games this year,” said Dona Cruickshank, promotional director for the Highland Games 2022. “Two years of virtual games have been great because we’ve given people something to celebrate, but nothing beats that real ones.”
With the welcome signs up, the huge tents, the infield grass cut and the fresh paint dry, the Glengarry Highland Games are ready to welcome everyone to the long-awaited 73rd edition of one of the Eastern Ontario Games on Friday morning, July 29th The best summer festivals.
“Feedback started as soon as we announced the games were back up, people were like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been waiting and waiting,'” Cruickshank says. “For many it is more than just an event, their families are coming home.”
In just a few days, the Kenyon Agricultural Fairgrounds in Maxville will be filled with bagpipers, drummers, heavyweights, dancers and musicians galore. As well as these traditional favourites, the games offer many other features to keep all ages entertained.
Scottish fiddle takes the stage on Friday
Some of the best Scottish fiddle playing in Canada can be found at the Glengarry Highland Games. Friday events at Arena Hall include special guest fiddler and workshop trainers Wendy MacIssac and Mairi Rankin from Games headliners Beolach. The Youth Fiddlers Showcase featuring the MacLeod School Fiddling and David MacPhee’s students runs from 2pm to 5pm. At 5:30pm the Glengarry Massed Fiddlers take the stage as they warm up for their performance on the main stage at 6:30pm. On Saturdays there are fiddle workshops in the Arena Hall from 9.30am and in the afternoon enjoy the best of Scottish fiddle with a line-up of Glengarry’s amazing fiddle talent, joined by their Cape Breton guests.
Also on Friday, the colorful 78th Fraser Highlanders will perform their 18th Century Musket Drill at Circle One at 12:50pm and 3:50pm. Follow the parades led by the Quigley Highlanders and the South Glengarry Pipe Band to bring the Highlanders out of the arena to the performance area.
Lovers of old cars should definitely visit the British Car exhibition, which can be found on the East Hill on Fridays. More than 50 classic cars will be on display with their owners, who will be happy to tell you all about their valuable vehicles.
Friday’s 11am Harp Workshop at the Metcalfe Center invites interested harpists to a workshop led by New England native Rachel Clemente, who has a degree in Scottish Traditional Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow. She was also the 2016 US National Scottish Harp Champion. Bring your harp and play, or just come and watch some beautiful music.
The clans gather
On Friday and Saturday, visit the clan buildings in the north-west part of the fairgrounds to see the exhibits and chat with representatives from more than 30 clans. Many special events are planned, including the MacLennan clan reunion with Melanie McLennan, the Chief’s Commissioner for Canada, and clan genealogist Bruce McLennan. Gaelic teacher Sìne McKenna will lead a beginner’s Scottish Gaelic lesson for all ages – particularly the young and young at heart. Visit the Games website for a full schedule.
On Saturday midday, just before the Opening Ceremony, the Clans take part in the Clan Parade on the main court in front of the assembled crowds, who put on an impressive display of tartan, kilts, banners and flags. All are welcome to join the assembled clans and participate in the clan parade by making a presentation at the clan buildings at 11:30 am
Always a popular attraction at the Games, the Whiskey Tasting will take place on Saturday at 2pm and 4pm with two tastings. Registration can even be done on the day of the games. Single malt connoisseur Barry MacDonald will lead the tasting of six whiskeys from the traditional regions of Scotland.
5k in kilt
For the sporty types there is the Up the Glens Kilt Run on Saturday afternoon, which starts at the tent and runs five kilometers through the corn fields surrounding the site. Join the other runners already registered. Remember that all runners must wear a kilt. Register online at glengarryhighlandgames.com.
Activities for the younger group
There is so much to do for the younger folks. The Junior Heavyweights start Saturday morning and offer youth a chance to try out the same events as the pros in a miniature version. Also on Saturday, a new feature has been added giving children the opportunity to be introduced to the ancient art of the Highland Broadsword! Foam swords and fencing masks are provided. Online registration ends on Thursday, July 28 at 12 noon.
The Wee Bairns area to the east of the Metcalfe Center is a special place for little ones who will be entertained with traditional Scottish music, crafts and stories. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children.
Everyone will want to be there at 12pm on Saturday 30th July when the games officially announce their return. Guests of Honor Jim and Jean Campbell, past Presidents of the Games and both participants in the first Games, will be delighted to welcome everyone back. After the ceremony, the mass bands and highland dancers give everyone a taste of what to expect at the closing mass pipe bands later in the day.
Celebrate but stay healthy
With COVID-19 still active, Glengarry Highland Games participants are being reminded to wear a mask during large crowds and/or crowded areas both indoors and outdoors. For added convenience, there will also be disinfection stations on site.
Visitors to the Highland Games are also reminded to travel safely. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will conduct roadside checks. Please ensure there is a designated driver to ensure everyone gets home safely.