This article appeared in the January, 2016, edition of The Ottawa South Community Review (aka OSCAR). I have changed some of the details here to reflect recent announcements about the kilt skate location.
The Kilt Skate Returns
It began as an annual house party on Riverdale Avenue to mark two birthdays -- Sir John A. Macdonald’s, and mine.
Last year, it morphed into a full-blown winter festival in five Canadian cities to celebrate the bicentennial of our first Prime Minister. It became one of the opening events of Winterlude 2015.
And this year, it’s back! Sir John A. Macdonald will be 201, and the 2nd Annual Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate is scheduled for Saturday, January 16th at Dow’s Lake, at Lansdowne Park Skating Court from noon to 2 p.m.
Will we surpass the 200 hardy souls who braved the biting winds and brittle temperatures last year?
We’re sure going to try!
For one thing, we’re going to make it easier for people to join in – no matter the weather.
The skate will be held at the Lansdowne Park Skating Court, with lots of restaurants, pubs and even movie theatres nearby where skaters can warm themselves.
If the National Capital Commission opens the Rideau Canal Skateway, we have the option to cross Queen Elizabeth Drive to enjoy the world's largest skating rink. After the skate, many of us plan to gather for refreshments at Milestones on Marche Way.
For another, you don’t need a kilt.
Sure, a kilt would be useful and very trendy. But wear anything tartan, anything celtic, anything that celebrates your inner Scot. Bring a flag. Bring your porridge. Bring a stuffed toy highland cow.
Introduce your highland cow to the Scottish Society of Ottawa’s mascot: Hamish of the Clan Haggis.
Last year, Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate was held in five cities: Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary in addition to Ottawa. Winnipeg, in particular, was eager to try to earn boasting rights: the longest skating rink, the most skaters, the coldest temperatures.
But with the wind chill, the Ottawa kilt skate was held in minus-35-degree weather – albeit on a gloriously sunny morning. If Winnipeg was colder, it wasn’t by much!
The skaters who showed up in Ottawa included the Ice Hogs, the Sen’s Sir John A. mascot, a large contingent of the Cameron Highlanders, and a snowman – some 200 in all, everyone determined to honour Sir John A with bare knees and ice.
The Ottawa event surpassed the numbers in Winnipeg and other kilt skate cities, but our partner cities are gearing up to challenge our bragging rights as the country’s largest kilt skate.
And the longest skating rink? Sorry, Winnipeg: the skating surface at The Forks may be impressive and it may wind along the beautiful Assiniboine River, but nothing’s going to match the size and grandeur of the Rideau Canal Skateway – “the world’s largest” skating rink.
Once again, Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate is organized by the Scottish Society of Ottawa. Fresh from their success with the Fourth Annual Hogmanay at Aberdeen Pavilion on New Year’s Eve, the SSO moved quickly to host a Robbie Burns Dinner and a kilt skate that, together with Hogmanay, are branding January as “Scottish Month” in Ottawa.
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Don Cummer is a long-time resident of Old Ottawa South and a frequent contributor to OSCAR. For many years he’s been observed skating the Rideau Canal in a kilt each January. He’s delighted that hundreds of others have chosen to join him.