It's not every day that we get to enlist the support of Sir John A. Macdonald himself to promote Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate, but there he was in the flesh, a guest of honour at the 70th annual Glengarry Highland Games.
Glengarry County has Scottish roots that go back to the first United Empire Loyalists who settled Upper Canada following the American Revolution. The county took on a very strong Scottish flavour in the following years when waves of Gaelic-speaking Scots arrived after being evicted from their homes as a result of the Highland Clearances. I've written elsewhere about its proud traditions in the pioneer village at Dunvegan and how it keeps alive the significant contribution that the people of Glengarry made to the War of 1812.
But the principle focus of the Glengarry Highland Games is not reenactment but performance: both in music and in sport. More than 200 dancers attend, but the Glengarry event is especially renowned for its pipers.
The Glengarry games are the home of the North American Pipe Band Championship. Pipers and drummers come from as far away as Austin, Texas, and San Diego, California, and as close by as Maxville, assemble on the field for the opening ceremonies.
And when they play and march together, it stirs the inner Scot that resides in all of us.
In sport, the Glengarry Highland Games are one of the largest gatherings outside of Scotland. Army regiments compete with one another in a tug-o-war competition that has been going on since 2007. This year, the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa won for the second straight year -- bringing their total yearly victories to six.
Highland games are especially known for the strength competitions, including the hammer throw...
The sheaf toss...
And the perennial crowd favourite, the caber toss.
Some of the spectators aren't that interested in watching contestants flip telephone poles...
They're more interested in the foot races.
Lots to see and do. Lots of people to meet who turn out to be related by clan -- amazing how a tartan can make for a swift introduction!
In fact, head over to the "clan tent" and you may find your long-lost relatives.
Don't have your clan tartan? Purchase a kilt on site.
The Scottish Society of Ottawa was on hand to promote our events.
In addition to the annual kilt skate, they include our very popular "Hogman-eh!" celebration on New Year's Eve.
Here's a media report of last year's event.
At the Scottish Society of Ottawa booth at the Glengarry games, Emmett Hossack, our Vice-Chair Emeritus, was on hand to explain his widely anticipated whisky tastings.
And I wandered the grounds carrying my hockey skates and a hockey-stick saltire. It's amazing how many people walk up to you to ask what on earth is going on. Well, here's the info so far:
But mostly it was great to be back in Maxville to see old friends and to hear those bands. Forward march!