A Tale of Cold Cities

This winter has been one of the coldest in memory — one of the snowiest as well. Nowhere is the cold more biting than on the cities of the plains. On Sunday, February 10, both Saskatoon and Calgary celebrated their fifth annual Great Canadian Kilt Skate. Not necessarily with “bare knees and ice” — not this year. But with customary Scottish fortitude and sense of fun.

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With the difference in the time zones, the events in Saskatoon and Calgary began simultaneously. The conditions were similar in both cities — temperatures in the mid-twenties (that’s minus mid-twenties!) But with the wind chill taken into account, skaters were experiencing the equivalent of minus-40 degrees.

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For our American friends and the veterans of the Tartan Kilt Skate NYC who may be unfamiliar with the Celsius thermometer, it doesn’t matter: minus-40 is the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. It’s cold!

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In both Saskatoon and Calgary, the Scottish pride was evident. In Saskatoon, they flew the “hockey stick saltire” — the symbol of the kilt skate as a uniquely Canadian way to celebrate Scottish heritage.

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The Royal Stuart banner was also in evidence in Saskatoon.

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In Calgary, the temperatures proved too cold this year for the pipers and Highland dancers, who had to cancel, but the Gaelic choir was in full voice, singing “O Canada” in English and Gaelic before a small but appreciative audience.

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The Calgary Sun was on hand to report that David Aftergood, the organizer of the Calgary event, welcomed the skaters.

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And the St. Andrew’s-Caledonian Society of Calgary made sure there were lots of saltires to give Calgary’s Olympic Plaza a Scottish flare.

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Calgarians were invited to enjoy the cake, coffee and hot chocolate.

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It was much appreciated by a kilted skater…

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…before he took to the ice…

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...joining a few other brave souls — kids, mostly.

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One of the strengths of Saskatoon’s kilt skate is the youth and enthusiasm of the skaters.

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And in fact, it’s fun for the whole family. Here’s the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association President, Cathryn W. and her daughter, Jessie.

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Once again this year, skaters in Saskatoon were treated to cookies and hot chocolate. Congrats to Rachelle L. and her team at the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association. Here is Rachelle with her daughter, Morgan.

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Under very cold conditions, once again the Scottish Canadian communities in Calgary and Saskatoon demonstrated their fortitude and perseverance. Some might say their pig-headed determination to do something totally unreasonable — thrawn is the Scots word for it! But we sure do have a good time.

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And we hope everyone will be back again next year — when hopefully the temperature won’t test our thrawn.

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First Ever Kilt Skate in NYC

The kilt skate phenomenon made a spectacular jump over the Canada-U.S. border and has landed a Salchow in midtown Manhattan. The first-ever Tartan Kilt Skate NYC was held on February 2 — a day that found New Yorkers experiencing another Canadian import: the polar vortex.

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The cold didn’t prevent the pipers from taking to the ice.

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Although some pipers preferred to gather nearer the pavilion at Bryant Park, where their instruments would stay in tune longer. These pipers are from the NYU Pipe Band.

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Some New Yorkers were content to watch from the sidelines…

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Or from the comfort and hospitality of the VIP pavilion — a good place to get warm and warm up the pipes before taking to the rink.

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But in spite of the cold, many New Yorkers celebrated their Scottish heritage like Canadian kilt skaters do: with bare knees and ice.

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Being a pragmatic folk, the Scots aren’t adverse to taking precaution. Why freeze body parts that you’d rather not have frozen?

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Working with Bryant Park’s Freeze Festival at the Bank of America Winter Village, the American-Scottish Foundation made sure there was Walker’s shortbread and Scottish bunting on hand.

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And lots of tartan.

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Some skaters flew the saltire with great exuberance.

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All in all, a great opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s contribution to the American melting pot.

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Thanks to Camilla Hellman and her team at the American Scottish Foundation.

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Thanks as well to their partners at Bryant Park.

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The next big day for the Foundation is the 20th Anniversary of the NY Tartan Day Parade on Saturday April 6th capping off a great week of events throughout the City.

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And we look forward to the Second Annual Tartan Kilt Skate NYC next year!

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Montreal rescheduled -- for a second year

Montreal rescheduled -- for a second year

Hosting a kilt skate outdoors leaves it vulnerable to the vagaries of weather. For the second year in a row, extreme weather warnings in Montreal have forced the St. Andrew’s Society to postpone for a week. The Great Canadian Kilt Skate is rescheduled for Saturday, January 26, 2-4 p.m.

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Winnipeg: early reports on a great skate date

Winnipeg: early reports on a great skate date

It’s estimated that 40-50 kilted skaters joined in the fun. The day’s entertainment included a skating piper and the Kids in Kilts Highland dance troupe. The event was covered by CBC Radio, CTV, City TV, and Global News — all of which augers well for future kilt skates as more Manitobans learn about this uniquely Canadian way to celebrate Scottish heritage.

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SJAM, Thou shouldst be living at this hour...

SJAM, Thou shouldst be living at this hour...

We can surmise what a man with Macdonald’s intelligence, charm and wily pragmatism might do with the current pipeline issues. He was not a man of ideology and visions.  His strength came from his ability to work with others, bring out the best in others, and take the many small steps that it takes to cover a vast distance over time.  And today, on his birthday, we can use his example. As the old slogan goes:  “You’ll never die, Sir John A!”

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Skateway Opens

Skateway Opens

After weeks of preparation, the Rideau Canal Skateway will open for it 49th season this morning at 8:00 a.m. The section from Bank Street……to Pretoria Bridge will be open. This section contains many favourite locations on the Skateway, including Fifth Avenue…Patterson Creek…And Pig Island. For up-to-date information on the Rideau Canal Skateway including ice conditions, including web cams, check the National Capital Commission website.

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Niagara-on-the-Lake -- heritage skating

Niagara-on-the-Lake -- heritage skating

An outdoor ice rink at Fort George makes an ideal location for a kilt skate, and the suggestion was put to the Friends of Fort George. The mandate of the Friends and of Parks Canada doesn’t encompass celebrating Scotland’s contribution to Canada with bare knees and ice, but they have certainly come forward with a wonderful event, to be inaugurated on January 5, 2019: a Regency Skating Party.

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Kilt Skate Goes to the Big Apple

Kilt Skate Goes to the Big Apple

The kilt skate phenomenon has made a quantum leap with the announcement that the event has migrated beyond Canada’s borders. The first annual “Tartan Kilt Skate NYC” will be held in Manhattan’s Bryant Park on Saturday, February 2, 2019.

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And the 2018 Kilt Skate Capital of Canada is...

And the 2018 Kilt Skate Capital of Canada is...

So how, from among these successful events, do we choose the city that will join Ottawa (2015), Saskatoon (2016), and Montreal (2017) as the Kilt Skate Capital of Canada? There are many considerations that come into play. The total number of kilted and tartaned skaters certainly counts. We’re especially impressed if the numbers show a significant increase from last year — in the order of 1000% in this case! We like it when the event captures the essence of the annual theme. For 2018 it was: “Year of Young People.” The opening ceremonies bring together representatives from the community and from various levels of government. The media comes out to cover the event. There’s ample opportunity to showcase Scottish culture. A Kilt Skate Capital draws on the strength of its volunteers who come out and set up the hospitality tents.

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Scottish Month plans for a Third Big Event

Scottish Month plans for a Third Big Event

In the nation’s capital, Scottish Month is about to get even bigger with the traditional Rabbie Burns dinner expanding to become a full fledged charity gala, with a ceilidh added for good measure. Mark your calendars for January 19, 2019.

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Kingston considers Sir John A.'s Legacy

Kingston considers Sir John A.'s Legacy

In an effort to get ahead of the issue and provide a forum where different versions of his history can be discussed, the City of Kingston today launched a consultation through its "Get Involved" website. Residents are also invited to bring their comments and suggestions to City Hall. The City’s website includes a very good summary of the issues involved.

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Sir John A. and D'Arcy McGee -- the Judgement of Our Times

Sir John A. and D'Arcy McGee -- the Judgement of Our Times

We keep judging the conduct of past generations. In Canada, the controversy continues about whether to remove statues of Sir John A. Macdonald. And last week in Ireland, D'Arcy McGee -- who delivered the support of Irish Canadians to Sir John A. and for Confederation -- stood on trial before a jury of his... well, not his peers, exactly, given that his jury was very much alive while he, the witnesses, and the court officials were not!

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