Return of Spirit of Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games

ALMA – The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games hosted a modified heavy event competition in hopes of bringing some of the festival spirit back to athletes and community members.

In the midst of an afternoon downpour, the event took place on July 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Images from the event will be included in the virtual festival weekend event, August 13-15.

“We were all totally drenched to the bone, but everyone was very happy because despite the weather, we were doing the kinds of things we love,” said festival coordinator Elizabeth Bender.

Bender said that with the easing of restrictions related to the pandemic and the advancement of steps in its plan to reopen by Ontario, organizers were given the opportunity to host an in-person competition where athletes could be scored. .

“With phasing, we were sticking to our guns in terms of a virtual event, but Warren Trask, president of heavy events, came up with the idea of ​​having a very small invite-only competition,” Bender explained. .

“We kind of broke it down: what could we do safely, how could we handle the crowd, and we were able to do it. “

Despite the weather conditions, eight athletes competed and the festival invited a number of its main volunteers who were shortlisted upon their arrival.

Bender said being able to host the event in person again could be summed up in two words: “absolutely amazing.

“We were all so happy to be together again doing what we do best, which is planning an event and doing it very successfully, despite the weather.”

She added that those who were able to attend said it was great to feel the spirit of the festival again.

Professional athlete Jamie Trask demonstrated the stone throw, an event where the stone, which weighs approximately 22 pounds, is cradled in the athlete’s neck before being released with one hand. Photo by Paige Peacock

“It doesn’t go away, the spirit of the festival, but doing it live versus online makes a huge difference, so it was amazing.”

Bender said it would have been nice to be able to expand the event to the whole community, but there are too many moving parts to host the event in person.

“It would have been great if we could have pulled this off, but we just couldn’t this year with the way phasing was working,” she explained.

“It was too short notice for us and we are fine with our virtual event.”

The virtual doors open on August 13 at 5 p.m. and the festival will be posted on the site. The videos will be available all weekend.

“I think it’s going to boost morale and it’s just a small step in the right direction that we’ve been able to do this safely,” Bender explained.

“We’re really trying this year to bring the sight, sound and feel of Fergus into people’s homes so that they can safely enjoy it and create that excitement for next year.

“Even virtually, I think it’s still something to look forward to.”

For more information on the virtual event, visit

Meet the competitors

The Advertiser had the chance to speak with some of the contestants before the event kicked off on Saturday.

The duo of brothers Craig and Alex McCormick entered the competition in the summer of 2019. It was their first time competing in Fergus.

“Alex suggested it as a sibling rivalry to see who was the best and we started doing it two years ago,” Craig explained.

“Our first year was the summer before Covid, so we took the last year and a half to get a little better – well, hopefully anyway,” Alex added with a laugh.

The couple grew up in Glengarry, where the Maxwell Highland Games are held, so they were familiar with the competition.

“We grew up going to the games and getting older, we thought we might as well participate in it and it’s a good way to stay active and have a bit of healthy competition,” said Craig.

Lorne Colthart, who moved to Canada three years ago, entered the games through his family and has been competing since he was 14.

Originally from Scotland, Colthart said he would take part in around 35 events a year.

In Canada, he says he competes in 10 to 15 competitions a year.

Of the eight participants, the event included four professional athletes vying for first place. Back row from left to right: Lorne Colthart, Craig McCormick, Alex McCormick and Jacob Fast. Before: Fraser Clark, Neil Lowry and Jamie Trask. Photo by Paige Peacock

Hammer throw is usually his favorite event, he explained – and it’s where he’s most consistent.

“You have to be good at every event to really be successful,” he added.

Jamie Trask, who also competes alongside his brother Jessie, has been attending the Highland Games since before he was born, he explained.

His father, Warren Trask, has been competing for over 35 years.

Having competed since the age of 13, Trask, now 23, said it felt good to be back in person in competition.

” It’s awesome. It’s been two years since the last real (contest) and seeing these people over the summer you get close and you kinda know what’s going on in everyone’s life and then all of a sudden you don’t see them over two years.

“So it’s nice to catch up with a lot of these people again. “

“I think the simple return to some kind of normalcy is great,” added Alex. “We are sitting here in a field with other people instead of staying in our homes, so we can’t ask for anything more. “

Colthart, who appeared at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games three years in a row before the pandemic, said the leave had been a nice break for him.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 14, so it was kind of nice to have a summer or two to myself,” he explained.

“Any weekend I was off I was competing, but I’m definitely ready to get back to it now and it’s just great to be back and be part of it. “

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Jennifer R. Strohm

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