Scottish Festival and Highland Games return in person this weekend

FERGUS – For the first time in three summers, the call of the bagpipes will sound in front of a live crowd at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

The hugely popular three-day celebration of all things Scottish returns to Fergus from August 12-14 after virtual and adapted events the previous two summers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are very confident that they will relive this experience live,” says Elizabeth Bender, the festival’s executive director.

“There really is nothing quite like being at the live event – seeing that caber thrown across the pitch and the sound of the pipes and the cheers of the crowd. We can’t wait to get started.

The 77th annual summer festival, held on the grounds outside the Wellington Community Sportsplex Centre, is packed with events and activities that celebrate local Scottish heritage and showcase world-class talent and entertainment.

Highlights include:

– heavyweight events, featuring athletes from around the world competing in traditional Scottish events that test strength and power;

Highland Dance and Bagpipes and Drums Competition;

– heritage activities rooted in Scottish culture, including demonstrations, lectures, entertainment and exhibitions;

– special guests, including Foreign author Diana Gabaldon and cast members Duncan Lacroix and Gillebride MacMillan from the hit TV series based on the best-selling books;

– musical entertainment, featuring Scotland’s popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Canadian Celtic rockers Mudmen and more; and

– whiskey tastings, a tea room, a genealogy center to help visitors trace their Scottish roots and international sellers.

Doors open Friday at 5 p.m. and opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and feature days of dance competitions and heavy events, guest performers, heritage and clan tents and more.

After more than three-quarters of a century, the annual festival attracts visitors from Southwestern Ontario, the GTA and beyond across Canada and around the world.

“We have multiple generations of families that come year after year, and then we have a lot of new people that come in and make it a new adventure or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure,” says Bender.

Organizers encourage visitors to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid lines at the gate. Tickets – single day or weekend – are also a bit cheaper if purchased online.

Adult weekend passes are $68 online ($73 at the door) and $58 for youth and seniors online ($63 at the door).

Adult tickets for Friday or Saturday only are $35 online ($40 at the door) and $28 for youth and seniors online ($33 at the door). Sunday-only adult tickets are $23 online ($28 at the door) and $20 for youth and seniors ($25 at the door).

Children accompanied by an adult are free. Pets are not allowed at the festival.

Parking is available at the sports complex for $5 per day. Free parking is also available at the Wellington District High School Center, a short walk away.

There is also a shuttle that connects downtown Provost Lane to the sports complex. The bus runs from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on August 12; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on August 13; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 14.

And what could be better than a parade to celebrate the return of the full face-to-face festival?

The “Pipes, Plaid and Pagentry” fashion show takes place on August 11. It starts at Victoria Park in Fergus at 7.30pm and runs through the town center ending at Fergus Legion.

Entertainment will be presented at the Legion with Brazilian Celtic band Taverna from 8-10pm. All ages are welcome.

The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games is supported by tourism partners including municipal, provincial and federal governments, Regional Tourist Board 4, OLG and Your Hometown Realty.

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Jennifer R. Strohm