Scottish Festival and Legion bring back parade

A pair of sig­ni­fi­cant anniversaries in town here has caused the Fergus Scottish Festival and Fergus Legion Branch 275 to head back to the future this August.

The two are going to restore the downtown parade that was a big part of the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games until the mid 1990s when the event shifted from Victoria Park on Tower Street to behind the community cen­tre. The festival is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, and the Legion has turned 75. They held a press conference on Friday for the announcement.

Festival event manager Bruce Lloyd said the two got together several months ago and began talks about how they could work to­gether. The event is called Pipes, Plaid (pro­nounced plade) and Pageantry.

It will run the Thursday of the festival, Aug. 12, from Victoria Park to the Fergus Legion Branch on St. Andrew Street West. Once the parade arrives, everyone is invited to stay downtown for a “Sneak McPeek,” because all the bars in the downtown that took part in Tartan Week in April will be previewing the acts that will be performing at the Scottish Festival on the week­end.

Lloyd said the two groups applied for and received a num­ber of grants from the federal and provincial govern­ments, as well as support from the town­ship.

They received a $60,000 grant from Celebrate Ontario, another $17,900 from the fed­eral Arts and Heritage Fund, and $15,000 from the Ontario Cul­tural Attractions Fund, as well as $300 from the town­ship. Grants are not just for the parade, but will add improvements on the grounds, too.

Caroline Laing, the chair­man of the parade committee, said festival organizers have heard repeatedly over the years they should “bring back the parade. We had a won­der­ful parade here for years in the downtown core. She said since there are significant anniversaries with the festival and Legion, “What better way than to have a joint parade.”

The Fergus branch is working to ensure several Legions take part in the parade, and is looking for various colour parties and bands to take part, along with to everything from dancers to heavy events competitors.

Lloyd said the festival has a nearly perfect caber currently 18 inches longer than regulation. There will be a $500 prize for anyone who can toss it end over end, and if nobody can, two inches will be sawed off each year and $500 added to the pot. He hopes nobody accomplishes the turn until it is worth $5,000. He said the caber looks like cedar, but is ironwood, so whoever turns it will be earning the money.

It will be carried from Victoria Park in the par­ade by heavy events com­peti­tors.

He also issued a warning. Those who want to be part of the parade will have to offer some real entertainment on their entry. The groups are not looking for en­tries that are just about advertising.

Festival president Deb Dalziel said this year the fes­tival is dedicated to volunteers. She noted that on May 13, the festival held an appreciation night of snacks and champagne for all the volunteers over the years. Since the festival has coped with huge downpours over many years, the enthu­siasm was undiminished during a storm that blasted outside the party. Over 100 people atten­ded.

Dalziel, too, noted many peo­ple had told her they miss the downtown parade. She said for many of the newer volun­teers, their first memory of the festival was that parade.

Legion President Brian Bielby said Dalziel ap­proached him months ago about a joint parade, and all of a sudden the Legion found itself involved in all kinds of events, including the Doors Open Fergus.

The Legion Branch cele­brated its actual 75th anni­versary on May 15, and held a special parade on Sunday from the cenotaph to the branch. It also held a dinner on May 15 for all life members and past presidents, and other special guests.

He said, “We’re really excited to work with you. We’re hoping to get six local Legions [for the parade] and we’re hoping for ten.” He added he has contact­ed five Legion bands about taking part.

Bielby added, “We need something downtown. This is a perfect example of what we can do.”