The excitement has built to a fever pitch for the Glengarry Highland Games, which return as a live event from July 29 to 30 in Maxville, after two years of being held virtually.
“I’ve been excited since it was decided we were going to hold the games this year,” says Dona Cruickshank, advertising director for the 2022 Highland Games. “Two years of virtual games was great because we gave people something to celebrate, but there’s nothing like the real thing.”
With the welcome signs hung, the huge tents up, the infield grass cut, and the fresh paint dry, the Glengarry Highland Games are ready to welcome everyone Friday morning, July 29, to the long-awaited 73rd edition of one of the Eastern Ontario’s best summer festivals.
“The feedback started as soon as we announced the games were back on, people were saying ‘oh my God, I’ve been waiting and waiting,” Cruickshank says. “For many it’s more than just an event, their families come back home.”
In just a few days, the Kenyon Agricultural Fairgrounds in Maxville will be filled with pipers, drummers, heavyweights, dancers, and musicians galore. Along with these traditional favourites, the Games offers many more features to keep everyone of all ages entertained.
Scottish fiddle takes to the stage Friday
Some of the best Scottish fiddling in Canada can be found at the Glengarry Highland Games. Located in the Arena Hall, Friday events include special guest fiddlers and workshop instructors Wendy MacIssac and Mairi Rankin, from the Games headliners Beolach. The Youth fiddlers Showcase featuring the MacLeod School Fiddling and the Students of David MacPhee runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Then at 5:30 p.m., the Glengarry Massed Fiddlers take to the stage as they warm up for their performance on the main stage at 6:30pm. Saturday fiddle workshops are held starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Arena Hall and in the afternoon enjoy the best in Scottish fiddling with a lineup of the Glengarry’s amazing fiddle talent joined by their guests from Cape Breton.
Also on Friday, the colourful 78th Fraser Highlanders will be demonstrating their 18th century musket drill in Circle One at 12:50 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. Follow the parades led by the Quigley Highlanders and the South Glengarry Pipe Band to bring the Highlanders from the Arena to the performance area.
For old car buffs, be sure to visit the British Car display that can be found on the east mound on Friday. More than 50 classic cars will be on display with their owners, who will be glad to tell you all about their treasured vehicles.
The Harp Workshop on Friday at 11:00 a.m. in the Metcalfe Centre invites interested harpists to join a workshop led by Rachel Clemente from New England, who graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow with a degree in Traditional Scottish music. She was also the US National Scottish Harp Champion in 2016. Bring your harp and play, or simply come and watch and listen to some beautiful music.
The Clans are gathering
Visit the Clan Buildings both Friday and Saturday in the northwest part of the fairgrounds to experience the exhibits and chat with representatives of more than 30 clans. Many special features are planned, including the MacLennan Clan gathering with special guest Chief’s Commissioner for Canada Melanie McLennan and Clan Genealogist Bruce McLennan. Gaelic teacher Sìne McKenna will conduct a beginner’s lesson in Scottish Gaelic, for all ages – especially the young and young at heart. See the Games website for a full schedule.
At noon on Saturday, just before the opening ceremonies, the clans will take part in the Clan Parade on the main infield in front of the gathered crowds putting on an impressive display of tartan, kilts, banners, and flags. All are welcome to join the gathered clans and take part in the Clan Parade by presenting themselves to the Clan Buildings at 11:30 a.m.
Whisky tasting always a popular attraction at the Games will have two tastings on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Registration can even be done on the day of the Games. Single malt connoisseur Barry MacDonald will conduct the tasting of six whiskies from Scotland’s Traditional regions.
5k in a kilt
For the athletic types, there’s the Up the Glens Kilt Run on Saturday afternoon, which starts in the Tent and goes five kilometres through the corn fields around the grounds. Join the other runners already registered. Remember all runners must wear a kilt. Register online at glengarryhighlandgames.com.
Activities for the younger set
For the younger set, there is so much to do. Junior Heavyweights start Saturday morning and offers youngsters a chance to try out the same events as the Pros in a miniature version. Also on Saturday, a new feature has been added where children will have the opportunity to be introduced to the ancient art of Highland Broadsword! Foam swords and fencing masks will be provided. Online registration closes Thursday, July 28, at noon.
The Wee Bairns area east of the Metcalfe Centre is a special place for the little ones to be entertained with traditional Scottish music, crafts and stories. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children.
Everyone will want to be present at noon on Saturday, July 30, as the Games officially announce they are back. Guests of Honour Jim and Jean Campbell, past presidents of the Games and both participants in the first Games will be pleased to welcome everyone back. Following the ceremony, the massed bands and highland dancers will give everyone a taste of what to expect at the closing massed pipe bands later in the day.
Celebrate but stay safe
With COVID-19 still active, attendees at the Glengarry Highland Games are reminded to wear a mask where there are large crowds and/or congested areas both indoors and out. For added convenience, there will be disinfectant stations on the grounds as well.
Visitors to the Highland Games are also reminded to travel safely. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be conducting roadside checks. Please ensure there is a designated driver to make sure everyone gets home safely.