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Fergus Scottish Festival to feature full slate of entertainment this weekend

August 10, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The annual Fergus Scottish Festival, the oldest festival of its kind in North America, opens this weekend from Friday August 11 to Sunday, 13th. This Festival has been staged in Fergus since 1946.

Elizabeth Bender, Executive Director of the Festival, commented in an interview with the Citizen, “I am in particular excited about the amount of incredible programming that is the festival this year. Two actors [from Outlander] are attending: Richard Rankin and Charles Vandervaart.”

There will be chances to meet and speak with both these gentlemen over the course of the weekend.

“The wonderful Glass Tigers,” Ms. Bender added. “We’ve pulled out all the stops. This year we just want to put together a great program and truly make sure the people have a wonderful time. After two years of being suspended with Covid and then opening last year after Covid, it was exciting to be back. But this year, we wanted to give people a special festival, with wonderful programming.”

She told us that she has been involved with the Fergus Scottish Festival for eight years and two years ago she moved into the Executive Director’s role. The festival is run almost entirely by volunteers, she pointed out, with some 300 plus people who work with the show with such passion.

Ms. Bender remarked, “I’ve never experienced this in my life. Just to be part of the process is thrilling. This is truly a labour of love, the love of the Scottish part of the festival, of course but all the rest of it too and the desire for people to come to truly enjoy themselves.”

Last year, the festival welcomed 26,000 people and it is expected this year that about the same number will come “with our programming and the Festival’s reputation. We move with whatever weather,” said she.

There is no exaggeration in Ms. Bender’s assurances, for the program list on the website is long and delightful. There are plenty of choices for whatever a person could want from such a festival and even the town of Fergus extends the welcomes further with options in the downtown area.

Beginning with the gates opening on Friday at 5:00 pm, the first meet and greet with Richard Rankin is staged at 5:30 pm and the many selections go on from there.

Not surprisingly, the Pipe Bands rule what we hear and, after a weekend at the Festival one can continue to hear them, as a sort-of joke, for a couple of days. The Scottish dancers compete with sword dances and their feet fly and the kilts swing in this and other dances. 

While we are talking about music, Glass Tiger, Albannach and the Glengarry Buoys are some of the bands who will play on the stage of the Main Field and in the Festival’s Highland Pub.

Over the entire weekend, are the competitions of world class athletes, men and women, the Heavy Events Competitions. Lifting huge stones and tossing the cabers [large wooden poles which are thrown to land in a very specific alignment] and more. Astonishing. These events lead up to the World Scottish Athletic Championships.

You can take Gaelic lessons; have tea in the tea tent; learn some Scottish history; David Leask is performing; there is comedy and there is McKiddies.

McKiddies is a slew of entertainment for the youngsters in your gang who will have fun in the tent set up especially for them. There is something going on for most of the time with specific scheduled actions and things for them to learn and try. Face painting sure but how about a weapons and armour display! Then there is magic, comedy and juggling for the kids.

All this and lots more.

Naturally, there are vendors offering much that is Scottish and Celtic. Wander up and down the isles for browsing and chatting to hear the stories of their wares and find a treasure to take home. Lots of laughter in those exchanges, lots of fun. 

As to why you should come, Elizabeth Bender reasoned, “The Fergus Scottish Festival brings you a little bit of absolutely everything Scottish, history, music, Highland games; the competitions and dancers, coming to win massive awards.”

For her it is a real thrill walking through the grounds, hearing the pipes and then the crowd cheering in the Heavy Events with such a cheer that rumbles though the earth. Someone might be setting a world record or a personal best and the crowds just roar. 

For her, the Tattoo on Friday night is special when “every time, the music is so in tune with that one experience.”

There is a whisky village, new to the Festival with four local distillers, for tasting and comparing to the grandfather whiskys of Scotland.

On Sunday, one can partake in a gourmet brunch with the stars Richard Rankin and Charles Vandervaart.

As always, there is a nod to Fergus, the host town, this year celebrating its 190 years with special story boards to learn about the town.

“The town of Fergus,” Ms. Bender observed, “still has its charm for sure.”

The Fergus Scottish Festival is on at the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex, 550 Belsyde Ave E, Fergus.

Gates open at 5:00 pm on this Friday, August 11; they open at 8:00 am Saturday and Sunday, days filled with so much to see and love.

To learn all the details, here is the website:

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