Arts and Entertainment

Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games are back

July 14, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Tilt the kilts and warm the bag pipes, the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games are back to Fergus for the weekend of Friday, Aug. 12, Saturday, Aug. 13 and Sunday, Aug. 14. There are some high headliner aspects to this year’s festival. Not least of these is, this is the celebration of being the longest running Scottish Festival and Highland Games in North America. This year, it celebrates its 75th Anniversary. To match this fine longevity, the organizers of the Festival have gone all out to bring the best celebrities and entertainment such a festival can hope for.

Years ago, when Diana Gabaldon had written her famous book The Outlander, Fergus Scottish Festival welcomed her to launch her epic tale, which took off from there and became the famous and much-loved Outlander series. Subsequently, Ms. Gabaldon had attended Fergus Festival as a special guest but not for a couple of years even before Covid shut the festival down, when she was engaged in writing another book.

This year Diana Gabaldon is back to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Fergus Highland Games and with her, she is bringing Duncan Lacroix, who performed the role of Murtagh in Outlander. Duncan Lacroix was also Henry De Percy in Outlaw King and Ealdorman Wereferth in Vikings. He is making his first appearance here at Fergus for this festival.

After two years of Covid restrictions, bringing the festival and games to the world virtually, there is a real buzz of excitement to welcome back the traditional attractions dating back all those 75 years. There were pipes and drums; there were strong men and heavy objects; there were dancers and swords and there still are.

Coming to today from the 11th Century, when soldiers competed for a place by the king or a consignment in the midst of the men going to battle, the heavy events have their origins. Farm tools, logs and good river rocks were the equipment of the tests and today they are the caber, weights for distance and heights, stones for lifting in the Heavy Events. Topped off by the multi-man tug of war….The World Heavy Event Championships are staged at Fergus 

The dance competition can go on all year for parents and girls and boys, who dress in their tartans and dance, legs and curls flying while the pipes tremble the air and audiences cheer their approval. All that culminates here as the youngsters compete for the prize ribbons and the accolades. Two swords are placed on the dance stage floor to challenge young dancers to follow the pattern in an ages-old dance of ritual, dodging the blades but not running from them.

The Fergus Scottish Festival has a whole weekend of three days and evenings and right away it is a village of tents to visit, merchants selling food and drink, other vendors with such beautiful items and souvenirs to purchase as mementos of the visit. Sometimes, it seems people shop for gifts for those special times to come.

The Clans and historians are under canvas as well to tell the tales of the very history dominating the three days and the minds of all who attend. Everywhere is the sound of the bag pipes – with the lads and lasses warming up their instruments, ready for the next parade, when bands coming from counties and town from far and wide, some from overseas, march and play through the corridors created by the lines of tents.

Friday evening is the Tattoo, the grand opening for the Festival and Games, under the stars. The Chili Peppers are the main attraction but before them are the Gathering of the Clans, the “Lightin’ of the Hearth”. The Pipe and Drums bring in the “Tatto’d in Tradition Ceremony” to honour the traditions of Scottish history.

From there, Saturday and Sunday are full of music, events and chances to listen and speak to the Special Guests, Diana Gabaldon and Duncan Lacroix. They are on board several times during the festival for conversations. There are a few occasions to share a whiskey tasting and a brunch on Sunday with them. All the details for these moments are on the website.

The Highland Pub will be open under its tent for serving drinks and munchies. There will be plenty of music there too, for enjoying a pint with your family and pals until rather late and rather fun.

You may or may not have a dram with Duncan but you can visit the whisky tent at other times to taste and learn about the history, making and understanding Scotch whisky, a notable education in itself.

In a country that has just acknowledged its 150th birthday, it is a great thing to be able to visit and participate with traditions that go back pretty well a thousand years. They are traditions that are still honoured today at festivals like the one in Fergus.

Bring the kids, bring the whole family. It is wonderful to see these festivals open again to the outdoors to welcome people back.

Anna Ricketts of marketing told the Citizen, “Very, very excited to welcome people back. On January 6, we announced that we were tentatively planning to have the festival and this year we have so many people and such wonderful music. The priority is the safety of the visitors and participants – we are following official guide lines. The Festival has partnered with the town in this matter and the safety of everyone and our volunteers is a priority.

“We are very excited to be back.”

To give the host town a mention, Fergus itself is a charming town founded by Adam Ferguson in 1833, it is a town of stout stone buildings in the Scottish tradition. It is located on the Grand River where a water fall dominates the scene and eventually was harnessed to provide electricity to a large number of businesses and homes. The old mill, built in the mid-1800’s which went through a number of identities has been a restaurant and inn for many years.

At the time of going to press, the number of drums and pipe bands that will come to play at the festival are not published. You may be sure however many they are, you will feel the beat of their playing Amazing Grace in the ground beneath your feet. 

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