Irish Month has a Scottish flair

The City of Ottawa has declared January to be Scottish Month, but surely the month of March belongs to the Irish.  St. Patrick's Day is still a week away, but already the stores and pubs across town are filled with Irish themes.  And when Beau's Brewery decides to host a St. Patrick's party on March 10 rather than the 17th, well who are we to refuse an invitation to enjoy a good time? Especially when a group of former hockey parents haven't seen one another in a while.

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We're all dressed up and ready to go!

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And some of us are prepared to go that extra mile in the wearing of the green.

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The party was held in the Aberdeen Pavilion, where the Scottish Society of Ottawa hosts its annual Hogmanay party on New Year's Eve. The St. Patrick festivities began at 2 p.m. when the annual parade up Bank Street wound up outside at Lansdowne Park.  But 8 p.m. the party was still ramping up.

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The music had been going on all day.  By the time we arrived, the headliners had taken the stage.

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The Real McKenzies are a celtic punk band from Vancouver.  They've been using a combination of bagpipes, two guitars and a rhythm section to rock audiences since 1992. 

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The lead singer, Paul McKenzie, added a distinctive Scottish tone to an Irish party with his raucous renditions of love poems by Rabbie Burns.

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Scottish kilts at an Irish party. A singer snarling out Rabbie's love songs to waiIing pipes and guitars. Weird hats, hair-dos, and eye-wear.  It all made for a surreal atmosphere.  Here at one table, a woman took on challengers in arm wrestling.

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Elsewhere, people played pinball.

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We certainly got into the spirit of things.

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This character was given the nickname "Elton Don."

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Ah, but all good parties must come to an end -- especially after the beer starts to run out.

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But a splendid time was had by all!

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Family Day on Bowness Lagoon

In 1990, the province of Alberta proclaimed the first "Family Day" holiday in Canada -- a chance to get together and, hopefully, get outside with the family for a mid-winter break.

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In Calgary, a good place to get together is Bowness Park.  In summer months, it's an amusement park where you can rent canoes, go for a ride on a miniature railway, or enjoy the kiddy rides.  In winter the lagoon of the Bow River is maintained as a skating rink.

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The rules prohibit hockey sticks.  But no one seems to mind when the hockey stick is used to carry a flag.

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This year, the temperatures across Alberta dipped to minus-20 during Family Day, but by noon, there were lots of people braving the cold for an outing on the lagoon.

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Park staff kept the flames going at rinkside fire pits.

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This was well appreciated by those of us thrawn enough to be skating with bare knees.

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Among the people who were curious about the kilt and the saltire was young Josh.

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He and his mom, Gabi, his Dad, Mike, and his sister, Emily, and brother, Noah, have recently moved to Calgary from Brazil -- Gabi's native country, where Mike worked in the oil industry.

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Seven-year-old Noah isn't in that picture. He was too busy teaching older boys how to skate.  Emily's favourite pastime was to be swung around in circles on the ice. 

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Josh, on the other hand, liked nothing better than to be skating as fast as he could with a saltire flapping in the wind.

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By noon, it was time to go home -- or to whatever new adventures the family had planned for Family Day.

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Altogether a great place to be for Family Day.

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Kilt skating the Rockies

Kilt skating the Rockies

We've celebrated the last of the official kilt skates, but the joy of skating in the kilt lives on. And when the Rocky Mountains beckon, why not don the kilt, pack the skates and the saltire, and head west out of Calgary. 

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Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

The temperatures in Western Canada on the morning of Sunday, February 11, dropped to the minus-20 range. In Calgary, the skaters were sheltered somewhat by the tall buildings. The Riley Family Duck Pond in Assiniboine Park, on the other hand, has little to shelter it from winds that sweep down from the Arctic.  Wind chill made the temperature feel like it was 30-below.

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North Glengarry shows us a different way

North Glengarry shows us a different way

Weather in the Ottawa Valley has not been kind to plans for kilt skates. When they first envisioned a kilt skate for North Glengarry, the Clan Donald Society imagined kilted skaters on the Alexandria Mill Pond.  But the deep freezes and the rapid thaws and occasional rains of the past weeks made a pond skate impractical.  So they decided to do something different.

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Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

WINNIPEG – On Sunday, February 11, at the Riley Family Duck Pond, Qualico Family Centre, Assinboine Park, the people of Winnipeg will take to the ice in their kilts, tartans and other Scottish regalia in an effort to claim the title of “Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.”

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Saskatoon -- The Year of Young People

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has the distinction of being the most northerly kilt skate.  This year, so far, it also has the distinction of being the coldest. 

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Following a mid-winter snowfall, the morning of Saturday, January 27, dawned sunny and cold.  

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By 1 p.m., the temperature had managed to crawl its way up to a balmy minus-19.  But cold weather doesn't keep prairie people indoors.  Some thirty hearty skaters laced up at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink for the fourth annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.

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Rachelle Lockwood is a proud member of the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association.  She's been organizing these kilt skates since 2016.  That's Rachelle in the toque, along with the other organizer Tannis. As a team, they've been organizing kilt skates in Saskatoon since the time when Saskatoon was declared the Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.  

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Even with lower numbers from previous years, Saskatoon will likely take the prize for the "youngest" kilt skate. Probably the cutest too!

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And this being Scotland's "Year of Young People," it's good to know that there's a new generation of Highland dancers coming up through the ranks in Saskatoon -- and they're getting an early taste of... kilt skating!

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And, of course, enjoying a cookie and some hot chocolate.

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For many, it was an opportunity for a first lesson on how to skate..

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Here's a shout out to the Highland dance moms who get the young ones out to the kilt skate each year.

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And a shout out to Pipe Major Sandy Campbell of the North Saskatchewan Regiment Pipes and Drums.

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Each year since 2015, often in the prairie chill, he's been out on the Cameco Meewasin ice, leading the skaters with music.  It's hard to get bagpipes to function properly in extreme cold.  Pipe Major Campbell knows how to tease the sweet sounds in any weather.

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Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

After a flurry of social media posts, Scots came out in great numbers to Toronto's second annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate. Outdoor kilt skates are always vulnerable to the weather, and on the Saturday on which the skate was originally scheduled, the rain poured on Nathan Phillips Square. Mind you, that didn't stop some Torontonians from trying out their skates, but I'm glad the City asked us to move our event to Sunday. 

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SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

In past years, Bryan Lyall organized a full Burns dinner for the Scottish Society of Ottawa (SSO), complete with  remembering the Immortal Memory, toasts to Lassies and, of course, the Address to the haggis.  This year, with Brian away on other responsibilities, we gathered for the fun and the fare at The Highlander Pub, where anyone wearing tartan gets a complementary dram.

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Before Kilt Skates became "a thing," it was what we did on January 25.

Before Kilt Skates became "a thing," it was what we did on January 25.

This is a great day for Scots and poets everywhere. It's a national day dedicated to a poet, Robbie Burns. January 25 is his birthday -- and along with the January 11 birthday of another great Scot, Sir John A. Macdonald -- it was a day on which the "thrawn" among us took to the Rideau Canal Skateway in our kilts.

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Ottawa doubles down

Ottawa doubles down

The Ottawa version of Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate continues to grow.  This year, about a hundred kilted and tartaned skaters gathered at the Lansdowne Park Skating Rink, milling about the tents and taking to the ice on a beautiful winter day. Skating, eating birthday cake and, of course, playing the bagpipes.

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Montreal skate "the best one ever"

Montreal skate "the best one ever"

The temperature was just above freezing but the refrigeration coils kept the ice surface hard at the Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal. More than a hundred Saturday skaters were on the rink, and of them, 34 had donned their kilts and tartans to celebrate the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate in that city.

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Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa had a perfect day for a kilt skate today, and about a hundred skaters and spectators gathered at Lansdowne Park Skating Court to celebrate Scotland's contribution to Canada's multicultural fabric. The pictures of the event will follow when our photographer culls his shots, but in the meantime, here's some snaps of the preparations, showcasing our wonderful team of volunteer -- coordinated by wonderful Isobel Adams.

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Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

The first kilt skates of the season begin tomorrow in Montreal and Ottawa.  Here in Ottawa, this means a flurry of media interviews that began earlier this week and will continue on the ice tomorrow. Today, however, there were two television interviews with the local CTV station. The Morning Live show had us rendezvous at Lansdowne Park Skating Court, where the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate begins tomorrow at 11 a.m. Peter wired me for sound.

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Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

It's turned out to be a beautiful day for a kilt skate at the Old Port of Montreal. We're always at the mercy of the weather: last year, for example, Winnipeg had to be cancelled because the ice had melted; this year, Montreal had to be rescheduled because a winter storm walloped the city. But everything works out in the end -- and the ice at Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal was excellent.

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A Kilt Skate for North Glengarry

A Kilt Skate for North Glengarry

There are several communities in Canada that take particular pride in their Scottish heritage.  You'll find them from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, to Red River in Manitoba, to the Alberta city whose name in Gaelic means "clear running water" -- Calgary. But across a nation that is sometimes described as "the Scotland of North America," you'd be hard-pressed to find a community with fiercer pride in its Scottish roots than Eastern Ontario.

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