Why everyone loves the Games
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.”
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.”
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