Scottish Festival and Highland Games returns in person this weekend

FERGUS – For the first time in three summers, the call of the bagpipes will ring out before a live crowd at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

The hugely popular three-day celebration of all things Scottish returns to Fergus Aug. 12 to 14 following virtual and adapted events the previous two summers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are very positive that they’re going to have this live experience back,” says festival executive director Elizabeth Bender. 

“There really is nothing like being at the live event – seeing that caber being thrown across the field and the sound of the pipes and the cheers of the crowds. We can’t wait to get going.”

The summer’s 77th annual festival, held on the grounds outside the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex, is jam-packed with events and activities that celebrate local Scottish heritage and feature world-renowned talent and entertainment.

Highlights include:

– heavy events, featuring athletes from around the world competing in traditional Scottish events that test strength and power;

– Highland dance and pipe and drum competitions;

– heritage activities steeped in Scottish culture including demonstrations, lectures, entertainment and displays;

– special guests, including Outlander author Diana Gabaldon and cast members Duncan Lacroix and Gillebride MacMillan from the hit TV series based on the best-selling books;

– musical entertainment, featuring Scotland’s popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Canadian Celtic rockers Mudmen and more; and

– whisky tastings, a tea room, a genealogy centre to help visitors trace their Scottish roots and international vendors.

The gates open on Friday at 5pm and opening ceremonies get underway at 7pm.

Gates open at 8am Saturday and Sunday and feature days of dance and heavy events competitions, guest entertainers, heritage and clan tents and more.

After more than three quarters of a century, the annual festival draws visitors from southwestern Ontario, the GTA and further afield across Canada and around the globe.

“We have multi-generations of families who come year after year and then we have a lot of new people who come and make it a new adventure or a one-off adventure,” Bender says.

Organizers encourage visitors to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid lineups at the gate. Tickets – one day only or weekend passes – are also a little cheaper if purchased online.

Weekend passes for adults are $68 online ($73 at the gate) and $58 for youth and seniors online ($63 at the gate).

Adults tickets for just Friday or Saturday are $35 online ($40 at the gate) and $28 for youth and seniors online ($33 at the gate). Tickets for adults on Sunday only are $23 online ($28 at the gate) and $20 for youth and seniors ($25 at the gate).

Children accompanied by an adult are free. Pets are not allowed at the festival.

Parking is available at the sportsplex for $5 a day. Free parking is also available at Centre Wellington District High School, a short walk away.

There is also a shuttle bus running from Provost Lane downtown to the sportsplex. The bus runs from 5 to 11pm on Aug. 12; 9am to 11pm on Aug. 13; and 9am to 5pm on Aug. 14.

And what better way to celebrate the return of the festival to a full in-person event than with a parade?

“Pipes, Plaid and Pagentry” parade runs on Aug. 11.  It begins at Victoria Park in Fergus at 7:30pm and travels through the downtown core, ending at the Fergus Legion. 

Entertainment will be presented at the Legion featuring Brazilian Celtic Band Taverna from 8 to 10pm. All ages are welcome.

The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games is supported by tourism partners including municipal, provincial and federal governments, Regional Tourism Organization 4, OLG, and Your Hometown Realty. 

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