MEN IN KILTS COMPETING IN COBOURG
The 54th Cobourg Scottish Festival and Highland Games.
Today was a big day in Cobourg Ontario, with the 54th Annual Cobourg Scottish Festival and Highland Games taking place in Victoria Park. Naturally, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed, and if kilts and bagpipes are your thing, you won’t be either!
It was a beautiful sunny summer day, and finding a parking spot a couple of blocks from the action, I could already hear the sounds of Pipe Bands carrying up over the rooftops of town. I quickly walked the two blocks to Victoria Park and gained admission to the festival site.
Immediately upon entering the festival site, I was greeted with one of the many Pipe Bands practicing in advance of their competition. They were fantastic, bag-piping, drumming and marching in unison. I quickly realized that different competing Pipe Bands were practicing all over the grounds – I was deep in a sea of kilts and knee socks!
Numerous vendor tents were set up, selling everything from traditional Highland Dance outfits and supplies for the dance competitors, to bag pipes, kilts and drums, celtic jewellery, pottery, celtic music CDs and books, T-shirts, hats and other novelty items, and ceremonial knives and swords.
Beyond the market vendor tents were the food vendors, offering the usual burgers and fries, fish and chips and snow cones and ice cream, and more unique foods like traditional British meat pies and haggis from a fry truck.
After I checked out the vendors, off I went to find a spot in the bleachers in order to watch the Heavy Events (strong men in kilts!). From my vantage point in the bleachers, I joined the crowd and cheered on the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship Competitors who had come to compete from as far away as Langley, BC and Antigonish NS. The first event I saw was the Caber toss, which involves flipping a 20ft long, 140lb pole (imagine a telephone pole) end over end. The throw is judged on accuracy of the throw, not the distance, and between you and me, I am pretty sure this event was invented by a group of drunken Scottish men a very long time ago, and was a ton of fun to watch. Hundreds of years later, it is still a ton of fun to watch!
While the heavy events were taking place, almost a dozen different pipe bands from around the province were also competing in a series of competitions. I am not sure what the judging criteria was, but every band I saw was spectacular. They marched in formation, they drummed to a rousing beat and they piped liked nobody’s business.
When the caber toss competition was over and I had watched a few of the pipe bands, I decided to stretch my legs and wandered over to the Victoria Park Bandshell where the Highland Dance competitions were taking place. Standing in the shade under a maple tree, I watched as groups of young ladies from different age categories, took the stage and danced the traditional Sword Dance. Dressed in full Highland Dance costumes, they were graceful and very athletic, and it was impressive to watch. It was here I realized I had unintentionally found my own clan. Remarkably, in the crowd there were dozens of people as pale as myself! This is actually an impressive feat, since I am one of those rare (unlucky) individuals who glows in the dark and manages single-handedly to keep the SPF1000 sunscreen manufacturers in business.
I wandered amongst the vendors some more, procuring myself a Slushie and a nice pair of earrings, and then went back to the bleachers to catch another heavy event – the Stones. Again, the crowd was very involved, and I quickly determined that watching guys in kilts pitching heavy stones for distance is a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.
After the Stones, came another heavy event, the Weights. This sport requires the competitors to throw a 56lb iron ball with a handle attached by a chain, over their heads and over a bar behind them, which is raised to increasing heights as the competition progresses. Basically, these guys are chucking a weight as heavy as an eight year old child over a 10 foot or higher bar behind them. So really, what’s not to love about these sports?!
By late afternoon, with a nice lobster-red sunburn slowly emerging, I decided to go home to look up my Clan tartan pattern and contemplate Haggis recipes on the internet. Until next year's Cobourg Scottish Festival and Highland Games....
COBOURG SCOTTISH FESTIVAL AND HIGHLAND GAMES
At Victoria Park in Cobourg, Ontario.
Takes place annually on Saturday in mid-June.