Grab your kilt and fire up the bagpipes. The New Brunswick Highland Games Festival, the province’s largest Scottish and Celtic cultural festival and competition, is back this summer in Fredericton to celebrate its 40th edition!
The Games will take place from July 28 to 30, 2023, at Government House in Fredericton, with an extra special kickoff on the Friday night at Barrack’s Square in the Historic Garrison District. Mark it in your calendars and come be a scot for a weekend in the Fredericton Capital Region!
Piping, Drum & Band Competitions
Ah yes, a sound as unique as Scotland itself, the plob-mhor, the doodlesack, or as we know it today, the bagpipe! A staple of the New Brunswick Highland Games Festival are the piping and drumming competitions and the massed bands.
A fan favourite is the massed bands in which pipes, snares drums, tenor drums and bass drums all perform together as a unit, under the direction of a Drum Major who leads them on and off of the field. Solo piping and drumming competitions are held in the mornings, and band competitions take place in the afternoon where each group is judged on musical performance, synchronicity among other criteria, but for spectators - it’s a visual and auditory feast!
Back again are the Scottish Athletics! These competitions feature lads and lasses testing themselves in traditional feats of strength. Some of these heavy events are featured on the New Brunswick Highland Games website.
The caber toss is one spectacle in the heavy events that always pulls a crowd. Competitors in this event throw a large pole called a “caber,” which may look like a telephone pole but is traditionally shaped from a larch tree. A caber stands roughly 16 to 20 feet tall.
Athletes take turns attempting to make the caber flip, end-over-end, falling away from the thrower as straight as possible. The caber to be used on the final days of this year’s competition is more than 20 ft tall and is heavier than 150 lbs. It takes a lot of haggis to fuel the muscles that toss a caber of that caliber!
Traditional Scottish highland dancing competitions are a staple of the New Brunswick Highland Games festival, and this year will be no different! Dancers from across the region will take part in a variety of highland and national competitions throughout the weekend, and on Sunday afternoon the Atlantic Choreography Challenge will showcase some of the region’s elite dancers in solo and small group choreography.
These are some of Atlantic Canada’s premiere highland dance competitions and all spectators are welcome. Competitions run all weekend and are sure to entertain and amaze!
Friday Night Kickoff Concert
Each year, the New Brunswick Highland Games festival features a headlining musical act. This year, Downtown Fredericton will come alive thanks to the superstardom of Canada’s reigning couple of Celtic music, Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, as they headline Friday night’s musical event. The pair will take to the stage for a FREE show in Barracks Square in Fredericton’s Historic Garrison District at 7:30pm, on Friday, July 28 after an opening set at 7pm by Fredericton’s own Shanachie Dance Company.
Among other attractions, the Games are an all ages event featuring a kid’s corner which will have a variety of crafts and entertainment, and even a ‘try-it’ Scottish heavy event series that children can sign up for. Visitors can also stroll the clan alley, discovering different Scottish kinships, their respective histories and tartans, or take part in cultural workshops throughout the weekend!
Get ready to celebrate Scottish and Celtic heritage and discover a weekend filled with exciting competitions and experiences at the New Brunswick Highland Games Festival! Get your passes and tickets now on the festival's website.
Written by Sean McCullum, Rat Dog Media with files from Devin Patterson, New Brunswick Highland Games Festival.