In a normal year, one of the events on day two of the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville is the Kilt Run, which is capped off by runners finishing their route on the track in front of thousands of spectators. Of course, as we all know, 2020 is no normal year.
However, as the saying goes… the show must go on. In this case, it goes on virtually.
In a media release from Dona Cruickshank, the Games’ director of advertising and a past president, it is noted, “In its 73-year history, a Glengarry Highland Games has never been cancelled until this year. It seems strange not to be preparing for the Games, not only for the Games directors, but for everyone in Glengarry who counts on the Games to be the gathering spot of the summer for family and friends near and far.”
“This week, things are a lot quieter in the Counties and certainly Maxville won’t be receiving the thousands of visitors who start arriving Wednesday and fill the streets and fairgrounds for the days of the Games.
There is a big void for everyone with what to do this weekend that can match the excitement and camaraderie of the Games. At the Games, we have come up with a few novel ways to keep the Games alive by using our social media to post virtual Games happenings.
Nothing can replace the real thing, but we hope everyone will gather in COVID-19 safe groups and carry on with Games festivities using some of the neat stuff found on our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube sites.”
Glengarry Highland Games committee media release
If you are looking for Games merchandise, such as a T-shirt to don so you can get into the spirit, items are on sale, until Wednesday evening, at the administration building. Amongst the products available is a special 2020 shirt. Sales take place from 6 to 9 p.m., and visitors are reminded to wear a mask. Debit or credit purchases only.
On the Games Facebook page this week, you can participate in trivia and bingo challenges. Word has it that there will also be photos posted from past Games golf tournaments which “have raised funds for many local organizations over the years. What can be more fun that wearing a kilt that swirls as you whack the mighty white ball!”
Something to look forward to on Thursday, with a 6 p.m. scheduled release on Facebook, is “a very entertaining video with many of our Games directors tossing the token. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces and great attempts to look like pros as they toss one of the Games famous beer tokens. No tokens or directors were harmed in this video.”
Also set for Thursday is the posting of nostalgic photos from past Tartan Balls. “For this kick-off to Games weekend attendees gather in their finest Scottish attire for an evening of dinner and dance and, of course, the haggis.”
On Friday, at 4 p.m., the Virtual Edition of the Glengarry Highland Games, a 90-minute show, will be made available to the public. “Many of our Games heavyweights, Highland dancers, fiddlers, and Celtic bands have joined together giving their time and talent to create a mini-Games for your entertainment. Taped live over the past weekend, this collection of Glengarry talent will bring back the many special sights and sounds that make up every Games. It is our hope that you will find a moment in the video that brings the Games to life for you.”
Planned for release on Saturday are several short videos highlighting Games favourite moments from recent years.
Looking to experience the sounds of the Glengarry Highland Games? The organizing committee is releasing playlists to Spotify and Apple Music. You will be able to choose either “the playlist with rousing party songs or the one with traditional Celtic tunes.”
Virtual Massed Highland Fling
Last Sunday, some 230 (and counting) Highland dancers joined together via an online conferencing platform for a Massed Highland Fling. Dancers from countries including Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, the USA, and Canada danced for 84 seconds to the piping of Glen Sinclair. According to the Games announcement, “The World Adult Champion, Marielle Lesperance, from PEI, joined the dance, [along with] three generations of dancers from Maxville, [and] past Games director Lois McLeod, her daughter Heather and granddaughter Layla.”
This performance will be posted publicly on Friday, July 31.
“We can’t bring you the real thing, but we hope you will enjoy revisiting past Games and viewing a few special events to fill the hours of Games weekend.”
With scheduled summer 2020 Highland Games across the country being cancelled due to COVID-19, it came as little surprise that the plug was pulled on the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, as well.
On April 22, the official word came down from Games president Eric Metcalfe, and the Glengarry Highland Games Organizing Committee: “What a wonderful world it would be if we could all be together and celebrate the 2020 Glengarry Highland Games on July 31st and August 1st. However, in light of the current public health crisis and with the deepest concern for all those who might be affected, we will not be presenting the 73rd edition of the Games this summer.”
First held in 1948, the Games have taken place in Maxville each year since, regardless of “sweltering heat and pouring rain and other difficult conditions.” The committee notes that the “unprecedented cancellation reflects the gravity of the world’s situation right now.”
“As upsetting as cancelling this year’s Glengarry Highland Games is…it is very much the right thing to do. I also want to assure you that all the directors and committees will be working hard to produce a spectacular 2021 Games. We look forward to welcoming you back on July 30 and 31, 2021. Please keep checking out our website for updates.”
Eric Metcalfe, Games president
There is no doubt that the thousands of attendees, participants, and competitors who would otherwise be in Maxville this summer are as disappointed as those who had to make the difficult call to cancel.
Ron Graham, who competes in the masters division of the Scottish heavyweights, said he is “very disappointed” about the cancellation of the Maxville Games, adding, “they had to … [and I] understand why they did.”
The Apple Hil resident describes the Glengarry Highland Games as one of the biggest, with “people coming from Scotland, the United States, and all over Canada.” He notes that Montreal’s games, which traditionally follow the event in Maxville, has previously been cancelled too.
“All the athletes probably put on 20 – 30 lb from staying at home isolating.”
One of the competitors in the open professional class is Jason Baines, who hails from Dalkeith. He told me, “Every single games has been cancelled, including my opener in South Carolina scheduled for April 4.” The athletes also lost the World Masters Championships, slated to be held in Ireland.
“All in all, it is disappointing seeing as I had been preparing for Worlds since late December,” he added. “The flipside is we will have an entire season to get healthy, improve technique, and cut more cabers.”
Another large Highland games festival usually held each summer in Ontario is the Fergus Scottish Festival, which would have celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. Scheduled for August 7-9, its cancellation was also announced this month.
As a result of the cancellation of various games, the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation also nixed the Canadian Amateur Championships, which were slated to be part of the Campbell River Salmonfest Logger Sports Competitions and Highland Gathering, and the Canadian Open Championships, scheduled for the Montreal games.
As Baines puts it, “Right now we are crossing fingers that we can throw in September, in Calgary or Quebec City,” where Highland Games competitions are still on the schedule.