When the Carpenter and I first arrived in Wellington County 21 years ago, we settled in Fergus. The only thing we knew about that town was that it was home to the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. That event was famous.
This was back when Helen Marucci arrived on your doorstep with a care package from Welcome Wagon, filled with everything newcomers would need to acclimatize to their new community, from who to call if you needed anything, to where to find things you needed, with a stack of coupons from local businesses that were there to help.
As a young family with a toddler and no friends or family around, this was a very welcome resource. But the treasure in it all was two free passes to the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games.
I remember the first time we attended this event like it was yesterday. We left our daughter with the grandparents so we could enjoy the full festival experience and I am happy to report that is exactly what the Carpenter and I did. We had no idea what to expect but sampled it all into the wee hours and walked home happy (wobbly, but happy). It was amazing.
Through the years, we brought our children to experience the sights and sounds, sometimes for family fun and sometimes, they joined me in my reporter days when I got to cover the event.
I remember my preschoolers meeting The Mud Men for the first time after I’d interviewed the Campbell brothers about their performance, and how kind those giant lads were when they met my kids.
This year, maybe those grown kids will join us in the crowd as we watch the band return to the festival – and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, too. I can’t wait.
As my surname indicates, I’m not Scottish, though my genealogy proves somewhere back in the day, there is proof of such ancestry. While I wouldn’t lay claim to a clan, the Carpenter has researched his family tree down to its very Scottish (and English) roots and if I told you his first name (and I won’t), well, he’s got Scottish blood alright. And he’s proud of it. If the name fits, as they say.
The beauty of the Fergus Scottish Festival is you don’t have to have Scottish heritage to feel the connection to the music, the food, the history, the tradition of the Tattoo, and the incredible feats of the Highland Games.
You have to experience it to appreciate it.
It reminds me again how fortunate we are to live in Wellington County, even if Fergus is no longer our postal code. There is a pride in place that surges when this festival happens. It’s tradition. It’s celebration. It’s a world-class event in small-town Ontario. It’s ours.
It will be a packed weekend for our family. My parents are volunteering as members of the Fergus Curling Club. The Carpenter, our son and I are first-time volunteers, joining friends who have long been a part of this event. It’s our turn to give back to the festival we’ve enjoyed.
If you’re joining us, please remember to be patient and kind to the people working behind the scenes. Volunteers are the heart of this event.
We’ve waited years to gather again. Bring on the bagpipes.