After a long two-year wait, the Highland Games return to Embro

A long tradition that dates back decades is about to return to Embro.

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A long tradition that dates back decades is about to return to Embro.

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The 83rd Embro Highland Games – Ontario’s oldest celebration of Scottish culture – will finally bring fiddlers, pipers, dancers and heavyweight events back to Oxford County next week after the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the festival in 2020 and 2021.

“I think this will be a fabulous opportunity to rekindle our community spirit,” said Jennifer Moodie, president of the Zorra Caledonian Society. “We want people to come and really enjoy the day.”

Hundreds of years ago, Scottish immigrants driven from their homes during the Highland Clearances were among the first European settlers in the Embro region. Many of the traditions they brought with them have since been celebrated in the small community west of Woodstock almost every year since 1937. Prior to the pandemic, the Highland Games had only been canceled once before, during World War II.

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The pomp and circumstance of the annual event – ​​its hair-raising mass groups, charming border collies and incredible feats of strength – usually draw between 3,000 and 4,000 people to the area each July 1st.

“It really puts Embro on the map,” Moodie said.

Visitors to Highland Games in the past will recognize many of the competitive events scheduled for this year. Scottish dancers from across Ontario will compete. So will athletes who throw the caber, throw the stone and throw the hammer – strength-building competitions in Scottish culture dating back centuries.

Scottish dogs will also play a prominent role. Border collies will demonstrate their herding abilities and organizers are bringing back Scottish Dogs on Parade, an event that was first added in 2017.

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“I’m looking forward to this day and hopefully we’ll have a good crowd,” said Wallace Matheson, vice-president of the Caledonian Society. “There is a lot to offer. We are bouncing back well. »

Along with the traditional Scottish elements, organizers have also planned new multicultural additions this year, including Métis fiddle, drum and jig. Among the performers who will participate is Alicia Blore, a Métis violinist from Toronto who has taken the stage with her brother Liam at national and international events, including the Louis Riel Day celebration at Queen’s Park, the Native American Games North and the 2015 Pan American Games. Am Games.

“We’re always trying to bring in more people to make sure (the event) is inclusive,” Moodie said. “We have exciting events going on that would appeal to young adults or young parents and we also have the traditional stuff…that appeals to the more nostalgic people in our community. It’s really important to be able to start over, to bring together everyone of all ages… and from all walks of life.

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Zorra Mayor Marcus Ryan said on Monday he was grateful to volunteers from the Caledonian Society for being able to revive the event.

“Every year I go, my family goes, and we say…we’ll only be there for a few hours, (but) we always end up spending the whole day there,” he said. “One of the main things I look forward to, and most people look forward to with all these community events returning, is just to be around other people. Especially in small, tight-knit communities like Embro, like Zorra in general, people just want to hang out, hang out and just chat.

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What: The 83rd Embro Highland Games

When: Friday, July 1

Where: Embro Zorra Community Center

Admission: $20 for adults, $10 for young people (13-17 years old) and free for children under 12 years old.

More information:

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Jennifer R. Strohm