Since 1948, the Glengarry Highland Games has welcomed over one million visitors to one of North America’s premier Celtic festivals. Home of the North American Pipe Band Championships™ and host of a spectacular Tattoo and Concert, the Games has welcomed some of the world’s finest Celtic entertainers to its stage. The moving massed pipe band performance at the end of the Games sees over 1000 pipers and drummers playing together on a field ringed with an awestruck audience. Along with the traditional Games events of heavyweights, highland dancing and Scottish fiddling, the Games has introduced several new attractions with the Highland Regiment Tug of War, a Kilt Run, a Harp Workshop, Scotch Tasting, a Wee Bairns Area and more. Each year, over 20,000 visitors flock to Maxville, Ontario to celebrate this Celtic tradition and participate in everything Scottish.
One of the world’s best Highland Games
Last year the Games made a triumphant return after a two-year covid hiatus and to its surprise had one of its record attendance years. Also, this past winter the Games was nominated by the Pipes and Drums magazine as one of the world’s best Highland Games and just recently was named as one of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals and Events in the same category as Ottawa’s Bluesfest and the Stratford Festival.
This summer at the 2023 Glengarry Highland Games there might be as many hockey jerseys as kilts in the audience when the Games welcomes as Guest of Honour hometown boy John Wensink, an NHL hero most noted for his time as enforcer with the Boston Bruins. Wensink joins an illustrious group of Canadian celebrities who have filled the role of Guest including Prime Ministers, a Governor General, an astronaut and other noted Canadian figures.
The award-winning Celtic rock sensation The Derina Harvey Band (dHb) will be this year’s Friday night Tattoo headliner with traditional songs as well as their own brand of original tunes. Lead singer and band leader Derina Harvey’s vibrant personality takes center stage with humour, storytelling, and, of course, her world class vocals. dHb has been likened to a “rockier” version of Canada’s Great Big Sea if fronted by Adele, and has earned a reputation as a high-energy show that leaves many an audience out-of-breath and hollering for more. What is it about Celtic music that when its solid rhythms, upbeat tempos and catchy melodies start up, that people are compelled to clap their hands and tap their feet and start dancing. The Celtic bands of Glengarry are well known across North America and they all make sure they are home to play at the entertainment venues at the Games. From Gaelic singing to Scottish fiddle to favourite Scottish and Irish tunes, they will all be there with perennial favourites the Brigadoons, Hadrian’s Wall, Brandy and Port, the 2 Paddys and the County Lads along with Maritime talent Anna Ludlow and East Coast Experience.
There aren’t many Canadians who don’t immediately recognize the distinctive red uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and at this year’s Games there will be loads of opportunities to meet them up close as the Games salutes the 150th Anniversary of the RCMP. From the Tartan Ball decorated with RCMP regalia to a special performance of the RCMP Pipes, Drums and Dancers at the Friday Night Tattoo, Games visitors will be able to say thank you to one of Canada’s historic policing forces.
Another colourful highlight of Friday night’s Tattoo will be the performance of Canada’s Band of the Ceremonial Guard with their scarlet tunics and bearskin caps, a symbol of Canada’s relationship to the monarchy and one of Ottawa’s most treasured icons. Daily during the summer, the Guard performs the Changing of the Guard on the lawns of Parliament Hill, one of the most recognized military traditions in Canada. As well, members of the Ceremonial Guard perform daily sentry duties at Rideau Hall, the official residence and workplace of the Governor General of Canada.
1,000 pipers and drummers
For many people, the Games is all about the pipes and anyone coming to the Games will not be disappointed. Some of the best in North America piping descend on Maxville to compete for the prestigious Piobaireached Society Gold Medal(Canada), the many piping and drumming awards and of course, the North American Pipe Band Championship™. After two days of wall-to-wall competitions and entertainment, the Games wraps up with its culminating event, the famous Glengarry Highland Games massed bands where over 1,000 pipers and drummers take to the infield and perform in unison. It’s a moving moment when the last strains of Amazing Grace fade away on the wind and the crowd surrounding the infield is hushed and in awe. Whether you’re nine or ninety, there is something for you at the Games. The grounds are fully accessible and there are many indoor events in air-conditioned spaces while outdoors there is an abundance of shaded areas where you can gather to watch the piping, the heavyweights or cheer on the tug of war.
Check out the website, www.glengarryhighlandgames.com, our Facebook page or Instagram to find out more about the Games and to plan your visit. As they say, during the long weekend on August 4 and 5, all roads lead to Maxville.