Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games are back | bloginfo(‘name’); ?>

July 14, 2022 0 comments

By Constance Scrafield

Tip the kilts and warm up the bagpipes, the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games return to Fergus for the weekend of Friday August 12, Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14. party of the year. Chief among them is that it is the celebration of being the oldest Scottish festival and Highland games in North America. This year, it celebrates its 75e Anniversary. To match this great longevity, the Festival organizers have done everything possible to bring together the best celebrities and entertainment that such a festival could hope for.

Years ago, when Diana Gabaldon had written her famous book The Outlander, the Fergus Scottish Festival hosted 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 the Fergus Festival as a special guest, but not for a few years before Covid even shut down the festival, while she was engaged in writing another book.

This year, Diana Gabaldon is back to celebrate the 75e Anniversary of the Fergus Highland Games and with it, she brings Duncan Lacroix, who played the role of Murtagh in Outlander. Duncan Lacroix was also Henry De Percy in Outlaw King and Ealdorman Wereferth in Vikings. It makes its first appearance here in Fergus for this festival.

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

Coming today from 11e Century, when soldiers disputed a place by the king or a sending in the middle of the men going to the fight, the heavy events have their origins. Farm tools, logs and good river rocks were the test equipment and today it is cabers, weights for distance and heights, the stones to be lifted in Heavy Events. Complemented by multi-man tug of war… World Heavyweight Event Championships take place in Fergus

The dance competition can last all year round for parents and girls and boys, who dress in their tartans and dance, legs and curls flying as pipes quiver in the air and the audience cheers their approval. It all culminates here as youngsters compete for ribbons and accolades. Two swords are placed on the dance floor to challenge the young dancers to follow the pattern of an age-old ritual dance, dodging the blades but not running away from them.

The Fergus Scottish Festival has a whole weekend of three days and evenings and it’s straight away a tent village to visit, stallholders selling food and drink, other vendors with such lovely items and souvenirs to buy as souvenirs of the visit. Sometimes it seems like people are buying gifts for those special times to come.

Clans and historians are also in tent to tell the stories of the very history that dominates the three days and the minds of all who attend. Everywhere is the sound of bagpipes – with the boys and girls warming up their instruments, ready for the next parade, when bands from counties and towns far and wide, some from overseas, parade and play in the hallways created by the rows of tents.

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

From there, Saturday and Sunday are packed with music, events and opportunities to listen and talk to special guests Diana Gabaldon and Duncan Lacroix. They are on board several times during the festival for conversations. There are a few opportunities to share a whiskey tasting and Sunday brunch with them. All the details of these moments are on the site.

The Highland Pub will be open in its tent to serve drinks and snacks. There will also be plenty of music there, to enjoy a pint with your family and friends until quite late and quite fun.

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

In a country which has just recognized its 150e birthday, it’s a good thing to be able to visit and take part in traditions that date back almost a thousand years. These are traditions that are still honored today at festivals like Fergus’.

Bring the kids, bring the whole family. It’s wonderful to see these festivals opening up to the outdoors again to welcome people back.

Marketing’s Anna Ricketts told the Citizen: “Very, very happy to have people back. On January 6th we announced that we are tentatively planning to hold the festival and this year we have so many people and such wonderful music. The priority is the safety of visitors and participants – we are following official guidelines. The Festival has partnered with the city on this issue and the safety of everyone and our volunteers is a priority.

“We are very happy to be back.”

To give a mention to the host town, Fergus itself is a charming town founded by Adam Ferguson in 1833, it is a town of solid stone buildings in the Scottish tradition. It is located on the Grand River where a waterfall dominates the scene and was eventually harnessed to supply electricity to a large number of businesses and homes. The Old Mill, built in the mid-1800s and which has gone through several identities, was a restaurant and inn for many years.

At the time of going to press, the number of drum and pipe bands that will play at the festival has not been published. You can be sure that whatever their numbers, you’ll feel the rhythm of their Amazing Grace playing in the ground beneath your feet.


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Jennifer R. Strohm