Why ev­ery­one loves the Games

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY TARA MACDON­ALD News Staff

Ask Sean Burgess what he likes most about the Glen­garry High­land Games and he’ll tell you, “You get to lis­ten to the best pipers in North Amer­ica com­ing to­gether to com­pete.”

Mr. Burgess, a mem­ber of the Glen­garry Pipe Band, was not alone in that re­gard. In­deed, the sounds of the pipes were call­ing last weekend as more than 20,000 peo­ple trav­elled from near and far to join in on the cel­e­bra­tions of Maxville's 71st an­nual Glen­garry High­land Games.

Of course, the Games are about more than just pip­ing. Even the youngest among us can tell you that. Just ask Willa Charlebois-Birch, a three-year-old from Or­leans, what she likes the most about the Games and she’ll tell you “every­thing.” The young­ster was vis­it­ing the Games with her moms, both of whom used to com­pete there as High­land Dancers.

Back at the Games

Like many of you, I grew up in Glen­garry with fond mem­o­ries of at­tend­ing the Games. I re­mem­ber the first time I saw the massed bands march­ing in from the far cor­ners of the field and the haunt­ing sounds that would leave me with goose bumps on my arms.

As I talked to peo­ple at this year’s Games, I found that I was not alone.

“I started com­ing to the Maxville High­land Games in 1970 and com­peted many times here,” Guelph res­i­dent and Chief Ste­ward Andy Donachie told me. “My favourite thing is the massed bands and be­fore that, com­pet­ing. When you see the massed bands and the hair on the back of your neck stands up you will un­der­stand why Scot­land was never con­quered.”

Lag­gan res­i­dent Kier­s­tian Ma­cLeod agrees, say­ing she had a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence at­tend­ing the Games while preg­nant. “It's the massed bands,” she said. “For my old­est daugh­ter Lilly, when I was preg­nant with her, the first time she kicked was dur­ing the massed bands at the High­land Games.”

Dif­fer­ent roles

A com­mon thread is that peo­ple tend to re­turn to the Games, but with dif­fer­ent roles.

One such ex­am­ple is Elora res­i­dent Christoph Wand, who com­peted as a heavy­weight from 2000-2014. He was back this year as an em­cee, pro­vid­ing colour com­men­tary for the heavy­weights.

“The High­land Games are re­ally well done,” he said. “For peo­ple who have never come here, they should un­der­stand how well or­ga­nized ex­e­cuted and pre­sented it is. It re­ally is one of the top three High­land Games in North Amer­ica.”

Cul­tural iden­tity

My cousin’s wife, who is from Ed­in­burgh, says that Canada is more Scot­tish than Scot­land. It's been said that the Scots and ele­phants never for­get.

“I left Scot­land three days ago to come here,” said Cape Bre­ton na­tive Danette MacIn­tyre. “Ev­ery­body re­mem­bers every­thing back to the 1600s here. Ev­ery­body knows their his­tory, even more than in Scot­land! I love the Maxville High­land Games, I've been com­ing here for 15 years now.”

For Greg Joseph, a mem­ber of the Ot­tawa High­landers Grade 3 Pipe Band, the High­land Games are all about the at­mos­phere. Orig­i­nally from Dalkeith, Mr. Joseph now makes his home in Ot­tawa. For him, at­tend­ing the Games is a big re­union with friends and fam­ily.

“It's great to re­con­nect with peo­ple, to see old friends and hear old sto­ries. The Maxville High­land Games is num­ber one.”

We will have more on the High­land Games in next week’s Glen­garry News. --Ed­i­tor

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