Canmore’s unique Scottish history showcased at upcoming Highland Games

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Canmore’s celebration of Celtic culture in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain valley is back.

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Despite fears of cancellation, the 1,000-year-old tradition continued over the Labor Day long weekend under the guidance of a new nonprofit called the Malcolm Scottish Society. The popular Highland Games showcase Scottish and Celtic culture with field events, bagpipes, drumming, Highland dancing competitions and “heavyweight events” like tug of war, hammer throwing and caber throw.

This happened alongside the Calgary Highland Games, which also took place on Saturday at Springbank Park for All Seasons.

“It’s quite a spectacle,” said Sandy Bunch, Canmore Highland Games President. He has been part of the Canmore event since its inception 27 years ago. He said losing the games would have been a big loss for the city and he is happy the tradition continues.

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Bunch, who is Scottish himself, said the two-day celebration is a good reminder of home.

Each year, over 5,000 visitors from here and abroad visit Canmore to experience the town’s unique Scottish heritage. The Highland Games were first introduced to Scotland in 1040 by King Malcolm III, nicknamed “Canmore”. The competitions were established so that the king could choose the best men to serve as soldiers and royal messengers.

The Highland Games were almost abandoned after the disbanding of the Three Sister’s Scottish Festival Society due to the limited number of volunteers. Spring Creek instead took the initiative to keep the tradition alive and formed the new company.

The property company is building a $37 million hotel in honor of Canmore’s unique Scottish heritage and will name it after King Malcolm III.

“The Highland Games have become an integral part of our community identity over the years – and a much-loved late summer event,” Canmore Mayor John Borrowman said earlier this year.

“Additionally, the games continue to bring visitors here to enjoy our beautiful mountain town and help sustain many small businesses.”

The Highland Games will take place September 2-3 at Centennial Park in Canmore.


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Jennifer R. Strohm