Seven great 2015 Scottish highland games & festivals near Vancouver

Massed band photoLooking to satisfy that summer urge for piping, kilts and haggis? British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest is the place to be in 2015.

DSC02998It all starts this weekend with the annual Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival which kicks off the outdoor piping and drumming competitive season with a three day event at Topaz Park in the BC’s provincial capital. Catch the ferry to Vancouver Island to enjoy some of that region’s best highland dancers, pipers, drummers and heavy event athletes.  The Victoria Highland Games begin on Saturday, May 16 and this year will also include Clan displays, vendors, heritage and history displays, Celtic field sports such as Gaelic football and Irish Hurling, children’s entertainment, Celtic music and dancing performances, shepherding, whisky tasting, beverage areas and much more.

June 6 – Don’t feel like paying the increasing ransoms demanded by BC Ferries to cross Georgia Strait? Steer your vehicle south across the border to Bellingham, WA where our neighbours are hosting the Bellingham Scottish Highland Games on the first

Wade Quayle of Port Coquitlam warms up prior to starting of the Heavy Events at Highland games photo by Carmine Marinelli

Wade Quayle of Port Coquitlam warms up prior to starting of the Heavy Events at Highland games
photo by Carmine Marinelli

weekend in June at Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale. The games begin with a celidh on Friday night with live entertainment, a blessing of the “ale” and the Games. On Saturday everything takes place on the main field with piping, drumming, dancing, Celtic music showcases, food and merchandise vendors, kid’s games and the wine and ale gardens to whet your appetite.

June 20 – BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival. Percy Perry Stadium. Colourful kilts and tartans, the best pipe bands and pipers in the world, award-winning highland dancers and a moveable feast of entertainment, activities and sounds:  this is the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival. A time to release your inner Scot or Celt, hurl a caber, try some haggis, taste great whisky surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Scottish Highlands, or sit back under the covered grand stands with a cold one and enjoy the main stage entertainment, from the Vancouver Police Pipe Band, to Celtic and Scottish performers. Wrap up the day in the two lively beer gardens as hundreds Dowco Triumph St. 2011of pipers and drummers fill the stadium below Burke Mountain with the thunderous and soul-tingling sounds of the massed pipes and drums of the BC Highland Games.  It’s a central location and an easy drive from Vancouver, south of the Fraser or beyond Hope.

July 4 – Penticton Scottish Festival: The Okanagan Valley will be ringing with pipes and drums as the “newbie” on the highland games circuit celebrates its second year of operation.  Pipe bands and solo competitors will be on hand, along with main stage entertainment and of course a beer garden. The festival takes place at King’s Park, 550 Eckhardt Ave West, in Penticton. Bring your inner tubes and you may even get a chance to tube the Penticton River channel between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake.

July 11 – Kamloops Highland Games. Former world champions SFU Pipe Band will beon hand to compete, along with several other bands as Kamloops plays host to pipers, dancers and heavy event athletes at Albert McGowan Park.

RCMP Drum Major Rob Smith keeps an eye on things at the BC Highland Games.

RCMP Drum Major Rob Smith keeps an eye on things at the BC Highland Games.

July 11 & 12 – Skagit Valley Highland Games. This will be the 21st annual Highland Games & Celtic Festival, July 11-12, 2015, at Edgewater Park in Mount Vernon, WA. Held the second full weekend each July, this Festival attracts over 10,000 people each year. Organizers think of it as a kind of “Scottish 3-ring circus;’ with a wide range of activities for young and old alike. This year the 2014 Glenfiddich piping champion Stuart Liddell of Scotland will be on hand to adjudicate and perform at the gathering. Liddell is a former member of the SFU Pipe Band, having played with the band for 11 years during which time the band won the “world’s” three times.

July 25 & 26 – Northwest Pacific Scottish Highland Games and Clan

11 and 12 year olds compete in sword dance at the Highland games. photo by Carmine Marinelli

11 and 12 year olds compete in sword dance at the Highland games.
photo by Carmine Marinelli

Gathering:  It’s a long name, so everyone just calls it the “Seattle Games”.  It’s actually held east of Seattle, in Enumclaw, WA and it’s the last big hurrah for pipers and drummers heading overseas to the world pipe band championships in Scotland in August.  It’s a games that only the American’s can put on – big, bold and fun.  Upwards of 50,000 people attend these games, attracting an assortment of characters, including medieval knights and damsels, Braveheart fans, pipe bands from across America and culminating in a massive massed pipe band display (check out the video on the link above).  There’s overnight camping on the field which can be an experience in itself, with campfires, pipe music and singing. It’s well worth the trip south across the border for this event. One note: this is usually a very hot games, so expect plenty of heat, from both the sun and the competitors.


About Mike Chisholm

Official Piper: Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tours. Pitt River Resort. Exec. Dir. ScotFestBC: The British Columbia Highland Games, Director, BC Pipers' Assn. Former journalist, Nova Scotian, Dad.
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