Hark, Hark! The pipes are calling! Fergus Scottish Festival is coming

With the low Canadian dollar and people wanting to book summer activities close to home without breaking the bank, the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games are offering a solution to the problem whether one is travelling alone, as a couple, or with the entire clan.

“Think about a fun ‘staycation’ option that has loads of activities, performances, competitions, displays and workshops for the young and the young at heart,” organizers point out in a press release.

It all starts with a Thursday night parade downtown Fergus then moves to the Centre Wellington Sportsplex and fields for three days of excitement.

Highlights include:

– world-renowned author Diana Gabaldon of the famous Outlander book series (also on StarzTV) will be gracing our stage for four speaking engagements and book signings;

– celtic punk band The Mahones will get hearts pumping Saturday night along with a great weekend of celtic bands, a Ceilidh (celtic for ‘Party’) and of course, Pipes and Drums.

– largest clan gathering in Canada with over 40 clans. A great way to find out more about your heritage as Canadians with Scottish heritage make up the third largest ethnic group in Canada (statscan);

– Family Day Sunday with tons of activities for the young and young at heart, including a Kitchen Ceilidh complete with kitchen sink for the kids;

On the heels of last year’s tremendous success, the 2016 Fergus Scottish Festival has put together an even bigger line-up of talent and entertainment for this summer’s 71st annual celebration, held the weekend of Aug. 12 to 14.

The dynamic board of directors and dedicated team of volunteers continue to take the festival back to its Scottish roots and revitalize the four pillars of Scottish heritage and culture: celtic music, clan gatherings, heavies competitions, and highland dance.

“This year, tradition and innovation collide to bring you the best festival yet,” organizers state

Always a fan favourite, the award-winning, #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon, returns to this year’s Festival following the phenomenal success of the Outlander TV series currently airing its second season on Starz TV. Diana will deliver four speaking engagements over the weekend, and in true Scottish hospitality, will stick around to sign books and discuss excerpts from her upcoming ninth novel in the series.

Next, hold on to your kilts; this year’s eclectic musical lineup is sure to satisfy the musical tastes of every festivalgoer, young and old.

The Mahones, featuring Dropkick Murphy’s Scruffy Wallace, bring their electrifying celtic punk to rock the Saturday night concert, and Albannach is back by popular demand to deliver the “fire and thunder of Scotland.” The StepCrew will kick off this year’s “Tattooed in Tradition” Friday night concert, followed by a traditional kitchen ceilidh in the Highland Pub tent, where you can sing and dance along with the Steel City Rovers, Jill Chambless, Scooter Muse, and anyone else with a pipe and a penchant to party. Looking for a more melodious approach to traditional Scottish music? Tommy Leadbetter and Friends will be on stage in the air-conditioned comfort of the Fergus Grand Theatre on Saturday night.

In addition to the many other talented Celtic artists performing throughout the weekend, Gillebrìde MacMillan of Outlander TV series fame returns to share his lyrical interpretations of Gaelic song and tradition.

The festival is also proud to host the largest clan gathering in Canada, with over 40 Scottish clans in attendance. Clan Leslie is this year’s featured clan, with Clan Chief, the Honourable Alexander John Leslie, heir presumptive to the Earldom of Rothes, as the festival’s 2016 Honoured Chieftain. Festival-goers are invited to join him on the main field as he rallies the clans and conducts the hearth lighting ceremony at Friday night’s tattoo.

The spirit of friendly competition continues to be alive and well, and this year’s festival provides many exciting opportunities for competitors and spectators alike.

The heavies competition welcomes two world competitors to the field, as it continues to showcase the spectacular strength and skill required by local, national, and international men and women in their attempts to master the caber toss, hammer throw, weight-for-distance, and sheaf toss.

Not just a spectator sport anymore, curious kids can also come out to children’s McHeavies on Sunday and learn the fine art of caber tossing from the pros.

The Scottish tradition of highland sance has also remained a focal point of the Festival, and this year’s competition invites dancers to compete in the Fergus Scottish Festival Championship, the Pre-Premier and Premier Highland Competition, and the National Competitions. Visitors can see these talented young dancers perform their dances of victory, celebration, and Scottish nationalism as they compete for well-deserved trophies and prizes.

“Then, let the skirl of the bagpipes and the crack of the drums lead you to the breath-taking sounds of the solo and massed band competitions on the main field. Enjoy the many impromptu performances throughout the weekend as these incredible musicians practice their craft and graciously share their talents with passersby,” organizers state.

From Friday night’s Tattoo to Sunday’s closing ceremonies, the 2016 Fergus Scottish Festival is filled with cultural events and activities perfect for those who are young, and young at heart.

Sunday’s Family Day is loaded with activities for everyone; come try your hand at curling, crafts, swordplay, and breaking down walls with a trebuchet.

Check out the interactive displays at the Heritage Centre, including dry-stone wall construction, sheep shearing, blacksmithing, and handicrafts. Learn how to clog, speak Gaelic, play the bagpipes, and so much more at the Scottish at Heart Workshop Series. Visit the tea tent, Highland Pub, concessions, and vendors. With so many offerings at such great value, the 2016 Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games welcomes you to join the party, and “take a trip to Scotland… without the airfare!” For more information, visit www.fergusscottishfestival.com