Canmore Highland Games

Nestled gently into Canada’s glorious Rocky Mountains, the quiet community of Canmore, Alberta is likely to be a whole lot louder this weekend as thousands of Celts gather for the annual Highland Games. Event publicist Beth Vandervoort gives us the details.

What is the event’s core mandate?
To promote and encourage Celtic culture in all its forms – dance, music and sports, and to promote the Canmore Highland Games as a cultural/destination event.

Wow has it grown over the years?
The first year (1991) we started on a shoestring budget and we had more attendance than we ever anticipated – over 1,000; and held our evening Ceilidh event outside on the grass. 22 years later, we expect 6,000 to 8,000 people to come out in total. Our evening Ceilidh is held in a heated tent (The Big Rock Festival Tent) with a capacity of almost 1,000 people. Big Rock has been a long-time sponsor, probably 20 years now.

Who attends the gathering?
We have at least 80% attendance from Calgary, followed by other Albertans, other western provinces, the rest of Canada and the USA and also international tourists. People love to come to the Rocky Mountains. The panoramic view at this event is breathtaking. We have friends and family of competitors, people from the larger Scottish community everywhere, and anyone interested in Celtic culture and tradition.

What can they expect to experience this year?
This year we are bringing an international group to perform at our Evening Ceilidh, called Celtica – hailing from Austria, it is a Celtic rock band with two world class bagpipers – first time in Canada – it plans to be high-spirited, passionate, a real energizer, clap your hands, stomp your feet sing along –

Why is it an important event for the Celtic community there?
It is a celebration of the heritage of the coal miners that emigrated to work in the coal mines in Canmore (now closed) – their families that continue to live here and for the Scottish town it was named after on the northwest shore of Scotland.

Why is it an important event for the non-Celtic community there?
After the coal mines closed, events such as the Canmore Highland Games have been instrumental in the economic rebuilding of the community – drawing thousands of visitors every year and making it the robust community it is today.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
We are continuing to look for opportunities to make it the premier Highland Games in the Western provinces by growing our events.

Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture?
As the landscape of our country is ever changing, it is the responsibility of all us of Celtic heritage to celebrate our roots – the family before us that carved out of the land this great place we call Canada.

What can we be doing better?
We need to be engaging our younger generations in the celebration of their heritage – musical groups like Celitica help engage the younger generations.