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.
North Glengarry, along with such places as Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Southwest Ontario, and Red River, can be seen as a heartland of the Scots in Canada. Scots have a tendency to think outside the box -- it's why, as Arthur Hermann suggests, the "invented the modern world and everything in it." For the past four years, kilt skates have always been held outdoors. Why not bring them inside, thought the Glengarry organizers?
What changes when you book a hockey arena and the community facility upstairs? Essentially, you divide a kilt skate into three components -- each of them fun. The first part is the "gathering" upstairs at the Glengarry Sports Palace. Everything was ready.
No skates? No worries. You could buy or rent skates at the event.
Simon McDonald tended to last minute details.
He built it, and they came.
The MacDonald brothers -- Alex and Hamish -- provided the music. They're not related to Simon, but in Glengarry County, half the population is MacDonald.
...Or played beanbags...
...or just got caught up in the wonder of it all!
While the grown-ups socialized...
...or checked their social media...
...or showed off tartans (Elizabeth MacLeod says that the reason why kilt skates are so popular is everyone's looking for an excuse to put on their kilt again)...
...or they took pictures...
...or joined the kids in enjoying some hot chocolate. (It's been rumoured there may be something stronger next year.)
The opening ceremonies included the organizer, Simon McDonald and his colleague, Wayne MacDonell- Director Clan Donald Canada / Treasurer Clan Donald Festivals Committee..
Francis Drouin, Member of Parliament for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, brought greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Skater-in-Chief congratulated North Glengarry on its first kilt skate and told how similar events were being held in seven communities across Canada this winter.
The audience was attentive. This was, after all, the first time something like this had been done in North Glengarry, and they were curious as to what it was all about.
There is nothing more rare and valuable in Canada than available ice time at a community hockey rink, and so when the appointed hour came, the piper summoned us to go downstairs and lace up the skates.
This brought us to Phase 2 of the event -- the skating itself. First things first: the red carpet needs to be rolled out. (Actually, it was a tartan carpet.)
The official ribbon is cut. The ribbon-cutting party includes (left to right): Simon McDonald Jr.; Heather Theoret (SSO); Ava Van den Oetelaar, flag bearer; Francis Drouin, MP, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell; Jamie MacDonald, Deputy Mayor; Carma Williams, Maxville Ward Councillor; Don Cummer, (SSO); Glenda MacDonell, Clan Donald; Simon McDonald, Clan Donald; Wayne MacDonnell, Clan Donald; in beige sweater, Brian Caddell, Lochiel Ward Councillor; at doorway to ice, Jeff Manley, Kenyon Ward Councillor; in the background, Gord White and Perry McConnell, past presidents of the Glengarry Highland Games.
.And then everyone skated.
Well, not everyone. One of the advantages of having a kilt skate in the hockey arena is that parents and grandparents can watch from the stands where it's warm(ish)...
...or from the players' benches.
For some, it was an opportunity for skating lessons.
Some people came a long way. Lorna Burley (r), drove from Massena, New York, to join her cousin, Barb Graham, who drove from Aylmer, Quebec. This might make the North Glengarry the first International Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.
Thanks to my skating partners, Katrina and Grace Vivaraies.
David and Joanne have become familiar to kilt skaters, with their "Outlander" dress that turns heads wherever they go. Here they are with Simon, the event organizer.
Then phase 2 of the event comes to an end, and the piper us to gather upstairs.
The focal point of phase 3 of North Glengarry's version of Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate is the birthday cake for Sir John A.
Cut into big pieces.
And there were lots of kids -- big and small -- who wanted a piece.
When the cake ran out, more was brought in.
Meanwhile, the MacDonald brothers struck up the music again. Couples who skated well together danced well together too.
Yes, in the hands of the people of North Glengarry, Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate had morphed into Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate and Community Social. And what would any social be without a 50/50 draw? Tickets were $3 each, 3 for $5, or "lang's my arm" for $20. The winner took home $110.
It was a splendid afternoon -- a wonderful way to celebrate Scottish culture in Canada, and we've certainly learned lessons about a different way to host a kilt skate. I hope other communities who are considering whether they want to join this national family will consider the hockey arena social as an option. Congratulations Simon!
But as for me, the Alexandria Mill Pond continued to beckon. I just needed to check out what it would have been like if we had been able to skate at the location originally proposed. So on our way out of town, we stopped by and I laced up the skates again.
I think the organizers made the right call in moving to a hockey arena.