Cèad Mile Fàilte – it’s a phrase many people will hear in the coming months.
Translated from Gaelic, it means a hundred thousand welcomes and it’s exactly how organizers will greet people when the Colchester Highland Games and Gathering takes place September 9.
Organized by the Scots Society of Colchester, this will mark the first time in the county’s history a highland games event will be held in the area. Linda Finnie, a member of the society, says many people were excited and happy to throw their support behind the idea.
“This is going to pick up from where the Piper’s Picnic left off,” said Finnie. “It ran for approximately 30 years. It was Mayor Christine Blair who mentioned the idea. We tested the waters and within a week, the word had started to spread and people were really jumping on board.”
The highland games will be held on the Jennifer Drive ball fields in Bible Hill. Even though it’s nine months away, the program is already in place for the one-day event. It will include competitions for highland dancers and pipes and drums.
“We have highland dancers coming from all over the Atlantic Provinces,” confirmed Finnie. “We’ve had an interest from more than 200 dancers at this point, which is very exciting.”
Both the highland dance and pipes and drums event will be registered. With that done, Finnie says they can start spreading the word to the various organizations.
The competitions for both dancers and pipers will start at 8 a.m. They’ll be followed by the official opening ceremonies on the main stage at 11 a.m.
Live entertainment will be a highlight of the festival. The Greene School of Irish Dance – which has appeared at the Nova Scotia International Tattoo and Disney World – will be performing while members of Gallus Gael Historical Re-enactors will be joined by two of Scotland’s top re-enactors to give a display of swordsmanship next to none.
“We’re also very excited to have a band coming from Scotland,” said Finnie. “They’re called Clann An Drumma and they’re a Celtic tribal group – almost a first of their kind. They do drumming with bagpipes. They’re pretty big in Scotland as well as in Hollywood. Their music has been featured in movies such as ‘We Were Soldiers.’”
Highland games events have been hosted by communities outside of Colchester County. Pugwash has hosted a smaller event while Antigonish and Cape Breton host larger scale events. Halifax also used to host an event but it stopped in 2009.
“We’ve seen lots of different festivals and events that take place and we’re hoping to time some of them in,” said Finnie. “This will be a traditional Scottish event but we want it to be very multicultural. We’ve approached an Acadian band as well as some First Nations dancers. We really want this to be all-inclusive.”
A tug o’ war, kilted dash, various clan tents, craft fair and food vendors will also be part of the event.
“There’s really too much to mention,” said Finnie. “We see this as a day-long event fit for the entire family.”
The Colchester Highland Games and Gathering wouldn’t be complete without a true heavyweight competition. Adam Ogilvie, a member of the Old Scotia Heavyweights is organizing the event.
He says it will deliver exactly what people would expect of such a competition.
“At this point, we’re looking at upwards of a dozen competitors,” said Ogilvie. “The Scottish heavy events are unlike anything else. We’re not taking anything away from other events but the truth is, you’re going to see some phenomenal athletes.”
The heavyweight games consist of eight traditional events, including two stone events and two hammer events. The caber toss – the most recognized of the eight events – will be a highlight. A group from Scotland has already committed to providing a heavyweight cup for the winner.
“This is huge for Colchester County,” Ogilvie said, who calls Debert home. “The heavyweight events have been around for a very long time. We like to call them the original extreme sport because really, that’s what they are. We throw stones. We throw hammers. These events have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
A mini highland games event will also be held for kids.
Most of the events will wrap up in Bible Hill around 5 p.m. From there, the focus switches to the Best Western Plus Glengarry for a dinner and dance to close the festival.
The focus for the organizing committee now rests on recruiting volunteers. Finnie says they’ve been lucky enough to fill most of the major positions but they’ll still need lots of help on the ground the day of the event.
“We still have a lot of background organization that needs to be done,” she said. “We know how things are going to look but there’s a lot of work involved in making that happen. We’re also still looking for items like staging, tents and more.”
Any funds raised during the event will go into the following year’s event. Finnie says sponsorship package details as well as volunteer opportunities can be found at www.colchesterhighlandgames.com. A Facebook page has also been created.
“We’re putting pretty much everything on social media whenever we can,” said Finnie. “We just want to spread the word and get people excited. Our goal is to make this self-sustainable so we’re aiming to start big and keep it big.”