With the month of May upon us, and the fragrant blossoms of spring filling the air, it’s time to start thinking about
upcoming highland games and events in BC and beyond. The competition season has already begun with the April 22, 2011 BC Pipers’ Association Annual Gathering. Next up is the Washington Pipers’ Association competition on May 14. But it’s the outdoor competition season, the highland games, the friends, families, beer gardens and craic that really make the summer fun.
What follows is my list of 10 great events to attend in Western Canada, (chronologically) either as a piper, drummer or aficionado of great highland bagpipe music.
1. Victoria Highland Games. May 21 and 22, Topaz Park, Victoria, BC. One of the oldest at 148 years (although not as old as the
Antigonish Highland Games at 150 years) this is a great piping competition, drawing some of the best competitive bands and solo performers in the region. Well worth a visit to this well run and fun event.
2. Bellingham Scottish Highland Games. June 4-5, Hovander Homestead Park, Bellingham. A short hop across the border takes you to another great competition. As with most of the American games, this is a very well run event with lots of volunteers, plenty of people and a nice beer garden too. I always get a kick out of the “Braveheart” wannabe’s who show up with fluffy shirts, painted blue faces, massive broadswords and their “damsels” in tow.
3. Bagpipes by the Beach, June 11. West Vancouver. This is a non-competitive event sponsored by the West Vancouver Fire Fighters. The event was cancelled in 2010, but is back this year. It attracts a number of local performance bands, including the RCMP E. Division Pipe Band, North Vancouver’s J.P. Fell Pipe Band and the Delta Police Pipe Band. A great family evening on the beach in mid June to enjoy our fantastic scenery, music and friends.
4. Coquitlam, BC Highland Games. June 25. This is the best highland games in BC. It attracts everyone who plays a pipe, a drum, swings a mace or caber, dances a jig or fling, or has an ounce of Scottish blood in them. There is plenty for the kids to do and a soccer field full of kiosks and venders. The Grade I and II band competition is the highlight of the day, followed by a boisterous gathering in the beer garden afterwards. I highly recommend this event in Coquitlam at Percy Perry Stadium.
5. Skagit Valley Highland Games, July 9-10. Mt. Vernon, Washington. This is a BC Pipers’ Assn. sanctioned Games, attracting a number of competitive pipers and pipe bands from BC and Washington. Throw in the heavy event lads and the lasses (and lads) dancing the flings, strathspeys and jigs, and this is another very worthwhile early July event.
6. Kamloops Highland Games, July 9. (From the web site): Come out and enjoy a fun filled Celtic day. Take in all the sights and sounds of traditional highland games. This annual festival will be the host to many activities including Scottish heavy athletics, highland dance and music performances, solo piping, drumming and band competitions, clan genealogy information, children’s activities and much more. SFU pipe band is planning on attending this event.
7. Portland Highland Games, July 16. Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, Oregon. It’s a bit of a drive to Oregon, but this is another one of the big events for pipers and drummers in the region. The Portland Games have been attracting musicians from BC for years. It’s a big Games, with a great competition.
8. Seattle Highland Games. July 30-31. It’s officially called “The Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games
and Gathering” but everyone just calls it the Seattle Games. It’s held in the same place every year – the King County Fairground in Enumclaw, WA. This is a BIG highland Games, attracting more than 50,000 people. The campsite beside the competition field is a great place to hang out during the weekend, and the evening gathering at tent sites is a lot of fun. Book your site early. This is another event that’s well worth the border line-up.
9. Calgary Highland Games. September 3. Springbank Park for All Seasons. While not in British Columbia, both the Calgary and Canmore Games are well worth the drive or flight. The Labour Day weekend competition attracts bands from Alberta and south of the border, along with all the displaced Scottish Maritimer’s (of which I am one) who need a dose of bagpipe music to get through the year
10. Canmore Highland Games, September 4. Framed by the Rocky Mountains, the Canmore Games wraps up the competition season in fine style. It’s a weekend of pipe music, starting with the Calgary Games, with a beautiful drive west on the TCH to Canmore. Great competition, pancake breakfasts, beer gardens and plenty of live music in a stunning atmosphere makes this a great games to attend.