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New Brunswick Highland Games Festival celebrates 40th year | CBC News


Pipe bands in tartan, the sound of traditional drums, and highland dance are some of what festival-goers can take in this weekend at the 40th annual New Brunswick Highland Games Festival in Fredericton.

If you smell something especially fragrant from the event’s vendors, it might be the haggis. 

The Games kicked off Friday evening at the Officer’s Barracks and continued Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of Government House.

Vendors have been busy.

One such booth is the Haggis Cafe & Scottish bake shop, a fundraiser for the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association.

A man with a long bushy white beard and glasses, wearing a dark long sleeved shirt and red baseball hat looks to the right of the photo.
Mel Fitton was helping the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association serve up haggis and other traditional Scottish treats. (Lars Schwarz/CBC)

“People love their haggis,” said Mel Fitton. He said people are willing to wait in long lines to get their traditional Scottish fix. 

According to Fitton, traditionally it’s a dish made up of scraps wrapped in a sheep’s stomach and then boiled.

“The way we do it, we use beef liver, chicken liver, chicken hearts, beef suet, lamb, beef heart and assorted spices,” he said. 

If haggis isn’t for someone, then there are also scotch eggs, oatcakes, cherry balls, and other traditional treats.

Fitton said that he likes that the food, and the festival, bring people together.

A group of people wearing blue and green tartan kilts each have a drum attached in front of them. Two people with bagpipes stand in the foreground with their back to the camera.
The Dartmouth & District Pipe Band is one of 12 pipe bands in attendance this year. (Lars Schwarz/CBC)

“We share the same interests,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, all of a sudden you’re Scottish.”

A few people from New Brunswick’s provincial archives were on hand to assist people on their genealogical journey.

Taylor Chalker is a student archivist. He was excited to help those with questions about their family history.

“A lot of time it’s people who either didn’t know that they were Scottish until they came to the Games today, or they just give us a clan name and hope that we can give them some information,” she said. “So, it’s really working with them to figure out the best way to conduct that research.”

Two women under an event tent looking at a laptop screen.
Taylor Chalker, a student archivist with the provincial archives, responds to research questions. (Lars Schwarz/CBC)

She said it’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, and she says it is important. “I think that knowing where you come from helps you understand where you’re going,” said Chalker.

Though he didn’t specify whether he’s Scottish, 16-year-old Tyler Clark was at the Games on Saturday from Perth-Andover, N.B. to compete as a junior in the heavy athletic events.

He said there aren’t many juniors competing anymore, but he enjoys the test of strength. 

The heavy events include ancient stone toss, where a stone of more than 10 kilograms is tossed from a standing position, ancient hammer tosses, which are actually a metal ball fastened to a wooden handle, and the caber toss, which involves tossing a six-metre log end over end.

A young man with reddish hair pulled back wearing a dark coloured tee-shirt.
Tyler Clark was competing as a junior in the heavy athletics events. (Lars Schwarz/CBC)

It’s Clark first year competing, but he started weight training last December.

“Form is a big part of the sport,” he said. “So, definitely about four or five months for form, and about eight [months] for weight training.”

According to Devin Patterson, the festival’s chair of marketing and communications, the Highland Games introduced some heavy events for kids this year.

“Just like the big Scottish athletics athletes, they’ll be able to throw a mini-caber, and a mini-stone,” said Patterson. “There’s a tug of war and a rubber boot toss.”

A bald man in a grey tee-shirt and dark-coloured tartan kilt holds a weighted stone on his shoulder and has drawn it back behind him in preparation for a throw.
A participant in the heavy events throws a stone. (Lars Schwarz/CBC)

Patterson said the entire festival takes a lot of planning, along with the work of approximately 70 volunteers working multiple shifts, but he said the festival is important.

“It commemorates the impact the Scots have had in this region, and continue to have,” he said. “And I think we always want to celebrate that. Anyone could be a Scot for the weekend, too.”


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